Former Mali international Frederic Kanoute feels that his country’s hopes rest firmly on the shoulders of team veteran and talisman Seydou Keita.
Mali will compete in Group D at this year’s campaign, which features matches against the Ivory Coast, Guinea and Cameroon.
The group has not been dubbed the group of death but emerging unscathed from it will be an enormous undertaking. Kanoute thinks that a lot of that will depend on Keita’s performance at the tournament.
“We have done consistently well recently without making it to the final,” Kanoute told Goal.
“With Seydou Keita leading the team we can make it this year. I am hopeful,” added the former international striker.
Mali did not have things all their own way during the qualifying campaign and establishing consistency proved difficult. During the build-up to this year’s tournament Mali also came horribly unstuck against South Africa during a warm-up fixture in Gabon.
Doubts have emerged over the team’s capacity to advance deep into the competition but Kanoute is having none of it.
“Mali were a bit up and down in qualifying but there has never been such an even competition, with Nigeria and Egypt both missing. Mali have enough quality players, and Keita is a great leader,” added Kanoute.
“He brings experience, professionalism, he plays in one of the top leagues. As long as he’s fit he can keep going, and he is an asset to any team.
“If this happens to be his last Cup of Nations, I truly hope he finishes with the title.”