World Cup: McKinstry labels Mali their most unpredictable opponents

The coach believes Les Aigles successful junior teams are a reason why they could be the toughest rivals

Uganda head coach Johnathan McKinstry has revealed why Mali may pose a bigger challenge to his team during the 2022 World Cup qualifiers.

Uganda, Mali, Rwanda and Kenya have been pooled in Group E of the preliminary round of qualifiers and the Irish coach says Mali are set to pose more danger to the Cranes compared to the other two nations.

According to the December 19 Fifa Rankings Les Aigles are ranked 56th worldwide and Uganda are 77th while Kenya are 106th and Rwanda are in position 131.

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“Mali are a very interesting opponent, I think people might look and say out of the top 10 teams in Africa, they’re ranked ninth and so they would think they are one of the lower-ranked top seeds we got,” McKinstry told Fufa TV.

The tactician pointed out successes of Mali’s junior teams in the continent last decade and says they are a team for the future.

“Mali are unpredictable because if you look at the junior sides, they won Afcon U17 in 2015 and 2017, they then won the Afcon U20 in 2019. So, they have a very talented young team,” he added.

“When you’ve got young players, consistency, and unpredictability these are things you expect of a young squad but there is no doubt and I said this to some people before the draw that Mali could well be the team for the next five years.”

McKinstry believes only experience will help the record Cecafa champions beat the West African nation then.

“So, we just have got to make sure we use our experience in those games to get the results against a young and talented team but we can’t take them for granted,” he added.

The coach also talked about the upcoming Africa Nations Championship (Chan) and Uganda’s chances of hitting the knockout phase for the first time.

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“We have to put a good performance in Chan and possibly we can break the bad luck which has denied us the chance to go beyond the group stages in the previous editions. If we can do that who knows what can happen next because we have good talent especially from the Uganda Premier League [UPL],” he concluded.

Chan will be played from April 4 to 25, 2020 in Cameroon this year.