Mali vs Equatorial Guinea: Kickoff time, venue, team news, predictions - AFCON 2021 Round-of-16 Preview

Mali are pushing for a first quarterfinal berth since 2013 against an Equatorial Guinea side that has reached the semifinals every time they have qualified for AFCON

Yves Bissouma has been influential for Mali in defence and attack

Mali and Equatorial Guinea will battle for the last quarterfinal ticket at the ongoing Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) as the competition approaches its third stage.

Burkina Faso, Tunisia, Gambia, Cameroon, Senegal, and Morocco have all taken their places in the last 8 with today's matches poised to produce the final two representatives between Ivory Coast or Egypt and Mali or Equatorial Guinea.

The Eagles of Mali qualified top of Group F, defeating Tunisia and Mauritania and drawing against the overachieving Gambia to end with nine points. They conceded only one goal during the group stages.

Meanwhile, The Nzalang Nacional of Equatorial Guinea scraped past Algeria and Sierra Leone with twin 1-0 victories to finish second to Ivory Coast who had defeated them 1-0 in their tournament opener.

Coached by Mohamed Magassouba and anchored by Brighton's Yves Bissouma, Mali will be hoping to break a seven-year jinx of not advancing to the last 8 after finishing third in both the 2012 and 2013 editions of the competition.

Equatorial Guinea have reached the quarterfinals on both occasions (2012 and 2015) that they have qualified for the competition, though this is the only time they have qualified for AFCON without being the hosts (or co-host).

Mali come into this fixture with the better form, undefeated in their last five competitive matches. The Eagles have won four and drawn one of those.

Magassouba's side also have a mean defence, letting in only one goal in their last nine competitive games. They scored 15 goals in those nine games.

Equatorial Guinea possess a more-than-decent run of form also, losing only once in their last five games, winning three and drawing (1-1) against Mauritania in their final World Cup qualifying match.

In head-to-head matches, the Eagles and the Nzalang Nacional have met only twice, a two-legged qualifier for the 2017 AFCON finals. Mali picked up two 1-0 victories over Equatorial Guinea in those encounters.

The Mali Vs. Equatorial Guinea fixture is scheduled to be held on Wednesday, January 26 at Limbe Stadium in Limbe by 8 pm Nigerian time.

Mali can welcome back Southampton midfielder Moussa Djenepo into their squad after the 23-year-old missed the final group stage match against Mauritania on suspension.

Dorian Hanza is the only injury doubt for Equatorial Guinea after the 20-year-old forward limped off with an injury in the game against Sierra Leone.

There have been no positive Covid-19 cases from either camp.

Mali Possible Starting XI: Ibrahim Mounkoro; Hamari Traore, Falaye Sacko, Kiki Kouyate, Massadio Haidara; Amadou Haidara, Yves Bissouma; Adama Traore, Adama Traore, Moussa Djenepo; Ibrahima Kone

Equatorial Guinea Possible Starting XI: Jesus Owono; Carlos Akapo, Obiang Obono Esteban, Saul Coco, Basilio Nchama; Iban Salvador, Pablo Ganet, Jose Machin, Jannick Buyla Sam; Emilio Nsue, Dorian Hanza

Mali are the overwhelming favourites to edge this match, riding on their recent form and better pedigree in the competition overall.

Ibrahima Kone will hope to add to his three-goal haul in the competition so far, albeit all three coming from the penalty spot. The predicted score for this match is a 2-1 victory in favour of Mali.

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