TotalEnergies AFCONU17 2023 – Semi-Finals
TotalEnergies U17 AFCON One box ticked, one to go, says Mali’s Coulibaly
Mali’s entire arsenal will now be trained on Morocco and by extension a stab at reaching the final, after they waded through the quarters of the TotalEnergies U17 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) beating Congo 3-0.
Head coach Soumaila Coulibaly says having achieved their first target to qualify for the World Cup, they will give their all to earn a record extending third U17 AFCON title.
“The first objective was to do everything to qualify for the World Cup and now this is achieved. We will now prepare for the semi-final and then seek to win the title. Once again, we will give a good account of ourselves to win the title,” the tactician said after guiding his team to the victory over Congo.
He adds; “We will prepare and plan well against Morocco. We already know a bit about Morocco and they know us too so it will not be an easy match.”
Mali have won the U17 AFCON title twice, in 2015 and 2017 and are now looking to become only the first team to win the title three times.
Reflecting back to the victory over Congo, Coulibaly said it was a result of a perfect preparation and a good execution of tactics by his players.
“We watched Congo against Senegal and Algeria and we just needed to impose our style of play. We did well, but we still need to work because we are yet to reach the technical levels that I would want us to,” further noted the coach.
He will now hope to raise the levels further as they prepare for Morocco, a side that showed their ambition with a well worked win over hosts Algeria.
Morocco’s Chiba wary of a tough Mali side in semi-final duel
Morocco’s head coach Said Chiba has admitted his team faces an uphill task when they take on Mali in the semi-final of the TotalEnergies U17 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in Constantine on Sunday.
The two sides faced off in two friendly matches before the tournament, Morocco winning the first match 1-0 while Mali won the second duel 2-1.
The Malian side has also been in brilliant form at the tournament so far, unbeaten and have not conceded a single goal.
“We know that we are going to face a very difficult team and we have seen how they have performed in the tournament so far. We know them well and we know what to expect. We will definitely make a good tactical plan to ensure we are in the best position to win,” says Chiba.
He adds; “We have tried to be in the best condition physically and mentally and we are also getting the players focused on what is ahead of us.”
Defender Saifdine Chlaghmo affirms as much, saying the players have a clear picture of the task at hand.
“We are enthusiastic to play against a big team like Mali. Chances are even for both of us because we have shown that we are strong candidates as well. The best team to use their opportunities on the pitch will win,” said the AS FAR player.
The coach says that despite already booking their ticket to the World Cup, this will not deter their focus and determination as they now want to try win the title for the first time ever.
“Psychologically, qualification for the World Cup has given us a motivation. We celebrated that night and it is over now. We have to put that euphoria behind us. We have a new target and a new ambition which is to reach the final,” said the tactician.
Chlaghmo says as much, that the players have their focus redefined. “We were happy and we celebrated, but now, the focus is to get to the final and that qualification is behind us.”
Meanwhile, Chiba has said they have received a lot of messages of support and congratulations from back home, including from senior team head coach Walid Regragui and that has given them an extra motivation.
“The whole country has been of huge support for us. Maybe it is not who has been in touch with us but who has not. That has given us hunger to try and do well,” Chiba noted.
The Atlas Cubs will be seeking a final ticket for the first time ever. Their best performance was in 2013 when they hosted the tournament, finishing in fourth place after losing their semi-final duel.