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CHAN 2020: Mali seek to wrestle title from champions Morocco

By Shafic Kiyaga
Morocco players celebrate one of their goals against Uganda | Courtesy photo

The spotlight will shine on two African powerhouses as they clash in the final of the sixth edition of the African Nations Championship (CHAN) at the Ahamadou Ahidjo Stadium, Yaoundé on Sunday.

The battle for ultimate supremacy will boil down to Morocco and Mali who remain standing from the 16 teams that set out to challenge for supremacy at the biannual continental showpiece that is exclusive to players in their respective domestic leagues.

The Atlas Lions of Morocco, winners of the tournament after defeating Nigeria in the final in 2018 on home soil will seek to become the first nation to retain the trophy.

The challengers Mali, on the other hand, will want to land their hands on the trophy for the first time after coming close in 2016 before losing to DR Congo.

The road to the final has been a smooth one for Morocco, winning all but one of their five games so far, including an emphatic victory over Uganda in Group C after a slow start to the tournament.

They made short work of Zambia in the quarter-finals, with a comfortable 3-1 victory before blowing away hosts Cameroon 4-0 in the semi-finals, mastering a tournament-high 13 goals in the process.

Meanwhile, Mali has done just enough to get to this stage. Back-to-back victories over Burkina Faso and Zimbabwe in their opening two games were followed by a goalless draw to Cameroon as they topped Group A.

They were held to a goalless draw by Congo Brazzaville after 120 minutes in the quarter-finals but prevailed 5-4 on penalties after Congolese defender Mapata Mouandza put his penalty wide of the target.

They prevailed after another penalty shootout in the semi-finals against Guinea, Mali managing to hold on for 120 minutes.

Mamadou Coulibaly stepped up to score the decisive penalty after goalkeeper Djigui Diarra pulled off a fine stop to keep out Morlaye Sylla’s penalty.

Mali boasts of the best defensive record in the tournament, conceding only a single goal. But they have not fared any better on the offensive end, finding the back of the net only thrice.

Morocco possesses the most potent attack scoring 13 goals in five games. They look up to tournament top scorer Soufiane Rahimi who has scored in three of their five games and leads the golden boot race with five goals. 

The two last faced each other in the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifiers, with the Moroccans thumping Mali 6-0 in the return leg after a one-all draw in the first leg in Bamako.

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