Mali coach Eric Chelle is not getting carried away by his side’s 2-0 win over Bafana Bafana, where he admitted they were put under enormous pressure in the first half before rallying for victory.
Percy Tau missed a spot-kick for South Africa in an opening period in which Bafana were the better side and should have gone into the break with the lead.
After halftime it was a dominant display from Mali, who were full value for the win as goals from Hamari Traoré and Lassine Sinayoko sealed the three points.
“I want to congratulate the players for this victory,” Chelle said. “During the first half, it wasn’t good. We were under pressure. During the second half, we showed intensity. We conceded a penalty, and had it been scored, it may have been a different outcome.”
The victory sets up Mali nicely in the pool, but Chelle knows there are two big hurdles to come in powerhouse Tunisia and tricky Namibia, who showed their prowess with a shock 1-0 victory over the north Africans on Tuesday.
“Each nation has its chance, and this tournament will be very interesting because each team has qualities,” Chelle said. “I would not say we are favourites to win the group just yet. Yes, we got the victory, but a lot can still happen.
“We still have matches to play and so we have to keep working hard.”
Mali midfielder Amadou Haidara expressed the same caution as his coach.
“There was a lot of pressure on the team. We know the first games are always difficult and that was exactly the case with us,” he said. “The first half was hard, but we were able to pull ourselves together. We were able to win and get the points. But there is still some work to do.
“We will analyse the game and see where we need to improve because there is still some improvement that needs to be done.”
Mali are next in action on Sunday when they face Tunisia. A win will put them into the round of 16. — SuperSport.