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African Nations Cup MALI 2002
Group A
Group B
Group C
Group D
3rd place
Mali - Liberia
Before the match
The opening match of the tournament sees two sides that one is very unsure about their real strength. Mali have a general lack of match practice and Liberia have had preperations marred by a row over bonusses for the players. A victory today will add a lot of momentum to the campaign of the winner.
A detailed preview:

1st half
-Mali in red socks, yellow shorts, green shirts, Liberia in white socks, blue shorts and white shirts.
-('2) afer a careful ball circulation Mali with a long ball by #15 on #9 what looks dangerous for the first time
-the ball is bouncing a little on the dry ground, yet the pace is slow as both try to find a rhythm. Most is played in the Liberian half yet
-('7) Mali: #9 Bagayoko with a quick sharp 20 meter shot as the ball had fallen to his feet, but right on the keeper
-('9) #9 Bagayoko who is the most conspicious player yet, has been sent through, can be stopped in the last moment by a defender
-('13) Liberian defenders have neglected the marking of Bagayoko whom they suspect offside but this time he needs to long to gain control of the cross, otherwise this had become a golden opportunity
-('15) Mali seem to have found a rhythm, a fine pass by playmaker Seydou Keita (#12) suggest his potential, but does not do any harm eventually
-('16) a first Liberian visit to the Malian penalty area - the individual threat by strikers like Debbah should not be underestimated despite the Malian domination
-('18) a Malian falls into the penalty area, but referee waves on.
-('22) Liberia. A dangerous shot from ahalf left, 15 meters, by #15 Prince Daye hits the outside of the net
-('24) free kick Mali, and first yellow card of the tournament for Zizi Roberts: Sebwe gets another for running out of the wall early, but eventually a player is able to throw himself into the shot
-('26) Mali: free kick cross from the right, another marking mismatch, but the Liberian keeper is alerted and puts his fists in between. He looks calm and safe.
-('29) some nice peace of wing football by Mali, cross cleared by a defender
-('31) third yellow card, this time for Mali #4 Coulibaly, free kick fades ineffective as well
-('38) goal scenes have become rare - not a lack of quality but rather a consequence of that both teams have found their organisation
-('40) just saying this an error sees Liberia break through with Seator but his shot from outside the penalty area misses the goal by a small margin
-('40) Mali answer imeediately by a dangerous distance attempt which causes some problems to the keeper
-('42) more confusion in the Malian defence as the match breaks open with borth teams attacking
-('44) Liberia have sensed the Malian problems and attack with a big number of players
-('45) corner, keeper tries to get the ball but misses it - header George Weah - 0:1
-('injury time) Mali with another fine attack but again cleared by the inside defence of Liberia

halftime 0:1
Mali with some fine football when in ball possession: a good mix of short passes and sudden long balls, using all tools of attractive attacking football: through balls, wing play etc. But Mali has onconsistencies in defence against the dangerous attacking potential of Liberia and so the goal came thanks to a goalkeeping error as well. For a long time of the match they did well in keeping the ball away from their own goal, dominating, but in the final 5 minutes of the half Liberia broke free from the containment.
Liberia with a smart match as well. They are not as impressive in their playing style but concentrate on the essential of football: defending the own goal and launching one or the other dangerous counter attack when allowed.

2nd half
-('48)  Mali begin attacking as expected but yet cannot exploit some obvious beginning problems in the Liberian defence
-a 50th minute snapshot: Mali take chances play man against man in defence, at least for the moment. Liberian seem to speculate on the second goal, leave three men upfront
-('57) Mali keeper does well in intercepting a long through ball
-another snapshot: Mali in possession, the four Liberian attackers obstruct midfield, but Mali patiently plays around them with coombinations, they attack using wing play but the cross ball flies into a crowded Liberian defence and only a half chance is the effect
-('60) Mali: #10 Coulibaly is replaced by #18 Dissa
-('61) the Liberian keeper with a spectacular looking flying interception of a dangerous cross
-it was 1994 when then hosts Tunisia played Mali in the opening match with a quite similar setup. Mali were the surprise winners and finished fourth in the tournament - Tunisia exit in the first round. Ironically it was Henri Kaspercak todays Mali coach who brought the Tunisian nationsal team back on success track in the following years
-('67) it does not look good for Mali, Liberia sit comfortable in their position and Mali have problems to tear the opponents defence open
-anyway, as long a sthe lead is only one goal, there is always the danger of a penalty or a lucky strike
-('71) three Liberian defenders stop Bagayoko, after he had been set up by a new player, #21 D.Coulibaly
-the match has lost some quality and the players precision, already a consequence of the climate? At least the Liberian resiliance must have tired the Malian players psychologically.
-('82) Mali: out of nothing Seydou Keita with a dangerous low distance shot with goes wide left by a meter
-('87) as cxould be expected Bagayoko begs for a penalty but doesn't get it
-('87) a second sudden sharp low 20 meter shot at the occasion by Seydo Keita - no chance for the keeper - 1:1
-Maybe Liberia made a mistake not to pusue the second goal as they seem to do in the beginning of the second half
-('90) Mali, a bit overexcited go for the winner and neglet defence, as Liberia seems keen on three points as well
-('injury time) both teams in a hurry, both want the three points but no clear chances yet

final score 1:1
Mali with some good looking football when in possession of the ball, but frustrated by the tough Liberian resistance. Liberia exploited the defensive weaknesses of the hosts but probably were too early satisfied with that one goal. The individual quality of Seydou Keita rescued Mali with only a few minutes to go.
Both outfits looked better than had to be excpected after various alarming reports before the tournament.

Mali: 1-Mahamadou Sidibe; 4-Adama Coulibaly, 5-Fousseini Diawara, 15-Boubacar Diarra, 13-Abdoulaye Camara (Adama Diakite 21), 12-Seydou Keita, 8-Bassala Toure, 10-Soumaila Coulibaly (Mahamadou Dissa 60), 6-Mahamadou Diarra, 11-Djbril Sidibe (David Coulibaly 71), 9-Mamadou Bagayoko 
Liberia: 1-Louis Crayton; 9-Zizi Roberts, 17-George Gebro, 20-Jimmy Dixon, 21-Thomas Kojo, 6-Kelvin Sebwe, 12-Oliver Makor, 14-George Weah, 15-Prince Daye, 7-Frank Seator (John Menyongar 79), 10-James Debbah 
att.: 60,000


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