We look ahead to Saturday’s headline clash at the Africa Cup of Nations 2023 with our Tunisia vs Mali prediction and preview.

Tunisia vs Mali: Pre-Match Facts

  • Tunisia are predicted by the Opta supercomputer to come out on top against Mali, given a 44.6% chance of victory.
  • Tunisia have never managed to beat Mali in their three previous meetings at the CAF Africa Cup of Nations (D1 L2). This will be their fourth encounter in the tournament, all in the group stages.
  • Ghana and Senegal (both 4) are the only teams Tunisia have faced more often than Mali (3) in the group stage of the Africa Cup of Nations without ever beating them.
  • Tunisia and Mali find themselves in the same group for the third consecutive Africa Cup of Nations. Mali finished top in both 2019 and 2022 while Tunisia were second and third respectively.
  • The last four matches in all competitions between Tunisia and Mali have produced just three goals, while the last time both sides scored in an encounter between the two teams was on Matchday 2 of the 2019 AFCON (1-1).
  • Tunisia lost their opening Africa Cup of Nations match this year, losing 1-0 to Namibia. They have never lost their opening two matches at an AFCON tournament and have won on MD 2 in seven of their last 10 participations (D2 L1).
  • Mali have kept a clean sheet in their last three Africa Cup of Nations matches, never before keeping four in a row. They haven’t conceded more than once in any of their last 16 games in the competition (10 goals conceded), the joint-longest run in the competition going into MD 2 along with Senegal.
  • Tunisia have failed to score in six of their last eight AFCON matches, winning the two games they have scored in that time. Indeed, 80% of their goals (4/5) across those games were scored in a 4-0 win over Mauritania in 2022.
  • Mali haven’t lost any of their last 22 matches at the AFCON when they have scored the first goal (W17 D5), last doing so in the 1972 final against Congo, losing 3-2.
  • Tunisia have lost three of their last four AFCON group stage matches (W1), as many as they lost in their previous 21 group games combined (W7 D11 L3).
  • As well as scoring the second goal in their 2-0 win over South Africa, Mali’s Lassine Sinayoko also had the joint-most shots on target (2), created the most chances (3), won the most duels (8) and won the most aerial duels (4) of any Malian player.

Match Preview

Tunisia and Mali, the two teams that had been tipped to dominate Group E, meet in Saturday’s headline clash at the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations having endured strikingly different starts to the tournament.

While Mali saw off South Africa with a 2-0 win to go top of the group, Tunisia slipped to a disappointing defeat to Namibia that left their hopes of making the second round in doubt. In that game, they dominated possession but couldn’t turn that into good chances, generating just 0.69 xG from their 10 shots, despite seeing 61% of the ball. It was Namibia’s first-ever win at the Africa Cup of Nations.

tunisia 0-1 namibia stats

Jalel Kadri’s side must now win at least one of their remaining two games, having arguably already faced their weakest opponents. They have tended to do well on Matchday 2 at the AFCON, though, winning seven of their 10 such games in the group stage. They have never lost their first two games of an AFCON tournament.

However, they have also never beaten Mali at the Africa Cup of Nations, drawing one and losing two of their meetings – all of which came in the group stage. Should they fail to win again here, Mali will become the opponent they have faced the joint-most times in the AFCON group stage without ever having beaten them (also Ghana and Senegal – both four meetings).

Mali, meanwhile, recorded a convincing win over South Africa in their opening game of the tournament. They missed a few chances themselves but were let off by profligate opponents. South Africa’s Percy Tau put a 19th-minute penalty over the bar, before missing another big chance 10 minutes later. It then took Mali until the hour mark to find a way through their opponents, with Hamari Traoré breaking the deadlock, before key man Lassine Sinayoko, who topped the charts for open-play shot-ending sequence involvements in the game (see the below graphic), added a second goal.

mali 2-0 south africa attacking sequence involvements

The result meant Mali have now kept a clean sheet in three consecutive AFCON games, and given the three AFCON meetings between these teams have produced just three goals, don’t expect this one to be a goal fest.

Tunisia vs Mali Head-to-Head

These sides have met three times previously at the Africa Cup of Nations, with all three of those games – like this one – coming in the group stage.

Mali have got the better of Tunisia in those matches, winning two and losing none of them. Mali won the most recent of those matches, coming out 1-0 victors in the 2022 edition.

tunisia 0-1 mali stats 2022 afcon

However, the teams have met twice since that AFCON game – in a two-legged World Cup qualifying playoff – with Tunisia winning 1-0 on aggregate. Those games followed a trend of low-scoring games between the sides. Their three AFCON matches have produced a total of just three goals.

Tunisia vs Mali Prediction

tunisia vs mali prediction

Despite their shock defeat to Namibia, Tunisia are deemed favourites to win this crucial AFCON clash, with the Opta supercomputer giving them a 44.6% chance of victory compared to 29.9% for Mali.

Our pre-tournament predictions made Tunisia favourites to top Group E, but they will need two huge performances in their next two games to manage that now unlikely feat.

Below are each team’s current, up-to-date chances of progression through AFCON 2023 according to the Opta supercomputer:

Tunisia vs Mali Squads

Tunisia: Mouez Hassen, Béchir Ben Saïd, Aymen Dahmen, Wajdi Kechrida, Yassine Meriah, Oussama Haddadi, Montassar Talbi, Ali Maâloul, Ali Abdi, Yan Valery, Hamza Jelassi, Naïm Sliti, Ellyes Skhiri, Bassem Srarfi, Sayfallah Ltaief, Hadj Mahmoud, Aïssa Laïdouni, Mohamed Ben Romdhane, Alaa Ghram, Houssem Tka, Hamza Rafia, Anis Ben Slimane, Youssef Msakni, Taha Khenissi, Elias Achouri, Haythem Jouini, Seifeddine Jaziri.

Coach: Jalel Kadri

Mali: Djigui Diarra, Aboubacar Doumbia, Ismaël Diawara, Mamadou Fofana I, Kiki Kouyaté, Sikou Niakaté, Hamari Traoré, Amadou Danté, Falaye Sacko, Moussa Diarra, Lassana Coulibaly, Adama Traoré, Yves Bissouma, Amadou Haidara, Aliou Dieng, Diadié Samassékou, Kamory Doumbia, Boubacar Traoré, Mohamed Camara, Moussa Doumbia, Sékou Koïta, Fousseni Diabaté, Ibrahim Sissoko, Lassine Sinayoko, Siriné Doucouré, Youssoufou Niakaté, Nene Dorgeles.

Coach: Éric Chelle

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