Mali are banking on their inspirational skipper Seydou Keita to stick around for a while so he can help them to secure a place in the World Cup finals for the first time. They play Rwanda later this month in the qualifiers.
Coach Patrice Carteron told Reuters recently that needs the influential 33-year-old, who led Mali to third position at the 2013 African Nations Cup in South Africa, stay on because his presence would inspire the rest of the team as they chase a place in Brazil 2014.
Former Barcelona midfielder Keita scored as Mali beat Ghana 3-1 to take the bronze medal for a second successive tournament and confirm their place among Africa’s top teams.
“Keita is a fantastic leader. He can continue until he is 40. He is such a model professional, who really loves playing the game,” Carteron said.
“I hope he will be recognised as the best player at this Nations Cup. He gave so much to his country, not only on the pitch.”
Mali play Rwanda in Kigali in their next World Cup qualifier on March 24 in Kigali. They lie third in Group H with three points after one win and one defeat in their opening two group matches.
By finishing third at the Nations Cup, Carteron said Mali were now aiming high.
“We are going to have to be strong if we want to be the first side in the history of Mali football to go to a Word Cup,” he said.
Keita added, “We have a good chance for the World Cup. It won’t be easy but we have a team with energy. We want to be the first generation from our country to qualify.”