Algeria test looms for Mali

World Cup qualifiers Algeria loom next for miracle workers Mali who stunned hosts Angola to fight back for an improbable 4-4 draw in Sunday’s Africa Cup of Nations’ curtain-raiser in Luanda.

Star-studded Mali looked down and out after Angola cruised to a 4-0 lead with 16 minutes on the clock.

But substitute Seydou Keita and Frederic Kanoute put them back in business in normal time with Keita again and Mustapha Yattabare grabbing the point in injury time.

Barcelona midfielder Keita warned his teammates not to get carried away by their stunning late rally after a first half performance that angered coach Stephen Keshi.

Keita said: “I just couldn’t imagine we could fight back like that.

“We were bad in the first half, mentally we weren’t really at the races.

“It’s good for us mentally, our confidence, but we have to be careful to not make too many mistakes. There is a lot to correct before the next match.”

He added: “This is a miracle. To be able to comeback to 4-4 after Angola led 4-0.

“This is rare in high level football. But we should stay with our feet on the ground and remember all the mistakes we made.

“I believe that we showed our qualities and weaknesses here.”

Keshi, who lifted the title with Nigeria as a player in the 1990s, didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

“It was a little difficult to believe we might come back. I’ve got mixed feelings, I’m happy with a draw but upset with my team.”

Mali skipper Mahamadou Diarra reflected on an extraordinary game that left Mali with every chance of making it into the second round.

“We started very good, got the first chance, then Angola took control.

“But as professionals we didn’t lower our heads and we kept fighting.

“We hoped to score one goal to give us confidence, then do what we can.

“It took a lot of effort to fight back, now we must rest and concentrate on Algeria.”

Angola meanwhile must pick themselves up and ensure they get a result against Malawi, also on Thursday, to keep their Cup campaign alive.

Angola coach Manuel Jose said: “This draw tasted like a defeat to me, this is one of the most bitter pills I’ve ever had to swallow in all the matches of my long career.

“Football in Africa is learning on the road, we have the skills but we were a little naive.

“It makes the next match a little more complicated. The public deserved a win.”

Angola skipper Kali added: “We have to raise our heads — I’m so sad and sorry — there’s no explanation for letting go of such a big lead.

“But we’ve got to give a good response in our next match.” — Sapa-AFP

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