World: Africa Cup of Nations
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H. Rafia (20)
L. Sinayoko (10)
By Peter Weis@PeterVicey

Samassekou starts and stars for Mali in 1-1 draw with Tunisia

A Tunisian side with three German club players on the roster managed only a point against a determined Malian team with two Bundesliga players in the starting XI in Saturday evening's late kickoff at the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations. 

The North African "Eagles of Carthage" presently sit in third place of their group whilst the Saharan "Aigles" of Mali occupy top spot. Of some major relevance, out-of-use Hoffenheim midfielder Diadie Samassekou played a strong match.
Two top tier and one 2. Bundesliga player on the tournament roster of Tunisia's national football team might be headed back to the Bundesrepublik early after Jalel Kadri's North African "Eagles of Carthage" failed to follow up their upset loss to Namibia in the opening round of group stage play with anything better than a draw against Mali. Eintracht Frankfurt's Ellyes Skhiri and Union Berlin's Aïssa Laïdouni both played from the start and went the full 90 minutes in the - from a Tunisian perspective - disappointing result.

The Malian "Aigles" entered their second group stage fixture under significantly less duress than their opponents. Eric Chelle's team comfortably beat South Africa in their tournament opener. RB Leipzig midfielder Amadou Haidara was joined in the starting blocks by his fellow Bundesliga representative, Diadie Samassekou of TSG 1899 Hoffenheim. Starts for Haidara, Samassekou, Skhiri, and Laïdouni ensured that four top flight German club plays contested from the start; the most of any match thus far in the competition.

The two nations traded first half goals. Mali's Lassine Sinayoko scored the opener in the 10th. Tunisia's Hamza Raifa responded with the equalizer ten minutes later. The first-half featured much crisper play from both sides. Chances were at a premium during a second 45 marked by injuries, stoppages, and fouls. Despite some of the rough play, there weren't many bookings to be had. Laïdouni was the recipient of one of two yellows handed out to the Tunians after Ghanaian match official Daniel Nii Ayi Laryea finally lost patience.

Laïdouni's performance on ground duels was generally weak throughout. Frankfurt's Skhiri did well in most all statistical areas, but managed only 34 touches in his full-match shift. Just as he did in the first group stage encounter, Greuther Fürth's Oussama Haddadi remained unused on the bench. Haidara lasted 69 minutes while Samasekou went until the 83rd before being subbed off. Both players turned in what could be described as relatively strong performances.

Haidara recorded one assisted shot amid his 40 recorded touches. Samassekou remained very involved as Chelle's base sweeper in a 4-4-2 diamond. The discarded Hoffenheim talent racked up nearly 50 touches, kept an 85 percent win-rate on ground duels, went on three forward carries, sent in one cross and registered an assisted shot himself. The 28-year-old won all but one of his aerial duels and completed 87 percent of his 31 played passes.

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