For the second FIFA World Cup™ qualifying campaign in sucession, Mali and Congo find themselves in the same pool. That said, Group 10 contains two teams who have made it through to the CAN 2008 in Ghana and will almost certainly be a three-way struggle, with Sudan more than capable of causing a shock or two along the way. Chad on the other hand will have their work cut out in such a tough group.
Though they made it to the final of the CAN 1972, Mali have yet to qualify for final phase of a FIFA World Cup, despite having had some famous names down the years. Coach Jean-Francois Jodar has an enormous pool of players to call on, most of whom ply their trade in top European clubs, but team spirit and cohesion will be of the essence if he is to get the best out of a group who can play to both extremes.
With a compact team that are difficult to break down, Sudan finished top of Group 4 in the CAN 2008 qualifiers and look to be getting back to the standards they set when they won the CAN in 1970. Congo are also harking back to their glory days when they won the CAN in 1972, but they have struggled for the most part since then.
Mali: If they can play disciplined football and not drop points carelessly, Mali should finish top of this group. This qualifying campaign is probably the last chance for the golden generation to prove its worth.
Sudan: They may have fewer stars in their ranks than Mali, but the Crocodiles have a very solid squad and are tough to break down, as they showed when they confounded the experts by qualifying for the CAN 2008.
Congo: The Red Devils are very much the outsiders in this group and are not quite on the same level as the top two. They finished third in Group 11 of the latest CAN qualifiers but are no soft touches on home soil. Mali are their bogey team, however, having beaten them four times and drawn twice in eight matches.
Chad: This group will most likely end up being a three-way fight for qualification with Chad on the outside looking in.
The players to watch
Mahamadou Diarra (Mali), Frederic Kanoute (Mali), Seydou Keita (Mali).
The crunch match
Mali-Sudan: This will no doubt be a two-legged "final" between the strongest teams in the group, and the atmosphere in Bamako will be absolutely electric.
*A look back * Mali 2-0 Congo, 3 September 2005. In a qualifying match for the 2006 FIFA World Cup™, Mali outclassed Congo and gained revenge for their 1-0 defeat earlier in the campaign.
The stat 0 - as in the number of times Sudan have lost to Chad. In four meetings between the two teams, Sudan have won three and drawn one, scoring eight goals along the way.
Did you know?
Mali and Sudan have both qualified for the CAN 2008 in Ghana, winning their respective groups.
Mali's golden generation always seems to succumb to the pressure. Will they finally show us what they are truly capable of? Click on "Add your comment" and let us know what you think!