Ghana’s Black Stars and the Eagles of Mali will be meeting for the first time at the senior level at a major tournament when the two sides lock horns on Saturday in Franceville.
Despite several meetings at the junior level and friendlies, the Group D encounter will serve the maiden clash between the two teams at the senior level inclusive the Africa Cup of Nations.
Interestingly, both teams are making a combined appearance of 26 at the Africa Cup of Nations; seven for the Malians, but have never crossed paths in the 55-year history of the flagship African football tournament.
Their only meetings which relate to the competition have been in the qualifiers of 1976 and 2010.
In 1976, the Stars had the edge with 5-3 aggregate after winning 4-0 in Kumasi and losing 1-3 in Bamako in the return.
Two years ago, the Stars eclipsed the wings of the Eagles, then guided by Stephen Keshi with a 2-0 win in Bamako before managing a 2-2 draw in Kumasi in the joint World Cup and Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers.
As far as friendly matches between the sides are concerned, the Stars have the edge as they are yet to suffer a loss in matches of that magnitude against the Eagles. Of the seven friendlies, Ghana has won four times with three ending in stalemates.
From a total of 11 matches between the two sides, inclusive qualifiers and friendlies; the Stars have emerged victors five times and lost once with the remainder ending in stalemates.
With this impressive statistics, football pundits told GNA Sports that the Stars are highly tipped to scale over their West African opponents, but they can only afford to underrate the Eagles at their own peril.
Victory for either side will see the team qualify for the knockout stage with a game to spare.