Carteron hails Keita

2013-02-10 08:21:02

Mali coach Patrice Carteron has praised his skipper Seydou Keita following the Eagles' second successive third place finish at the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) tournament.

Mali defeated Ghana 2-1 at a soaked Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth on Saturday.

Looking in the form of his life, Keita netted two minutes into the second half, doubling his side's lead after Mahamadou Samassa opened the scoring 21 minutes into the tie.

"We have a fantastic leader in Seydou Keita," Carteron said following the match, proudly donning his bronze medal.

"He gives so much to his country, not only in football, but he gives so much that he deserves to be nominated.

"He is so professional that if he wants, he can play until he is 40 years old. He works really hard, he is unbelievable. He likes football and physically he is fantastic."

The fixture was a repeat of the 2012 Afcon bronze medal playoff, where Mali defeated Ghana 2-0 in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, courtesy of a Cheick Tidiane Diabate brace.

Ghana's quest for a fifth Afcon title ended with a semifinal defeat to Burkina Faso in Nelspruit on Wednesday, while Mali suffered their heaviest defeat of the tournament as they went down 4-1 to a rampant Nigeria outfit in Durban.

Saturday's fixture was also a repeat of the two teams' group B meeting, where a 38th minute Mubarak Wakaso penalty earned Ghana a 1-0 victory at the same venue on January 24.

Carteron said he was delighted to walk away third-place winners despite not going all the way in the tournament for a second time in two years.

"Most of the people before the competition thought that we could win this competition," he explained.

"We must realize that Mali do not have as much money as a lot of big footballing nations in Africa.

"What Mali did last year was unbelievable and to start again this year with younger players and to finish third is fantastic.

"For us, after the defeat in the semifinal, we were really disappointed. It's sad but I'm sure the people of Mali will be so proud of what the team did during the competition.

"I'm really proud of what we did because it was not easy to play this game after our defeat against Nigeria (in the semifinals)."

Carteron added that Mali's plan to absorb as much pressure as possible worked on the night, something that his team failed to do against Nigeria in the semifinal.

"During the entire competition, we are the one team that wins all the second halves, but lose most of the first halves. So the first thing I asked the squad was to defend in the first half.

"We had the opportunities to score, we could have scored a second goal in the first half, but I knew physically in the second half we were getting stronger and stronger."

As with much of the tournament, controversy was not far away as referee Otogo Arnaud awarded Ghana a 57th minute penalty after Salif Coulibaly was adjudged to have handled the ball inside his own area.

Sensing a comeback was on the cards, Wakaso stepped up confidently, but flashed his effort over the goal, not troubling Diakite and failing to add to his four tournament goals -- three of which came from the penalty spot.

Carteron went on to commend his players for their fighting mentality throughout the tournament and had no doubt that the Eagles -- ranked third on the continent in world rankings -- would one day lift the trophy.

"We are a young country in football. I say young country because we have never won the Cup of Nations," he said.

The Malians continue their bid for a place in next year's FIFA World Cup in Brazil -- something the Eagles have never achieved before -- when they take on Rwanda in a qualifier encounter in March.


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