Seydou Keita stresses need for Mali unity

Abdou Traore and Seydou Keita (right)
Keita (right) was visibly relieved as the final whistle sounded on Mali's win

Seydou Keita has stressed the need for unity as Mali try to qualify for the quarter-finals of a Nations Cup for the first time since 2004.

The Eagles beat Guinea 1-0 in their opening Group D game in Franceville on Tuesday evening.

"We need to continue to play as a team," said the Barcelona star.

"A team who depend only on individual players will fail, but a team who are united and play for each other, will always win."

Keita, who captained his country to the last four at the 2002 Nations Cup, has returned to the Mali set-up after a long absence sparked by a self-imposed exile.

And he admits to feeling under pressure as he assists a youthful Mali team at the finals.

Against Guinea, Mali started with defender Mahamadou N'Diaye, 21, striker Cheick Diabate and midfielder Samba Diakite - both 23.

"Personally, I have been under a lot of pressure but I will continue to assume my responsibilities," said Keita, who spent several minutes giving thanks to Allah immediately after Tuesday's match.

"I'm satisfied with the result against Guinea. We played against a very good team, probably one of the best teams after the first round of matches in this competition."

Captain Cedric Kante is the other veteran in the squad, and he was relieved by the narrow victory over Guinea.

"After the injury problems we have had, it was great to start with a victory," said the centre-back.

"Guinea were a hard team to beat. In the second half, they came at us and it was very difficult for us.

"Victory was very good for our morale and I hope we can do more on Saturday."

Mali next face Ghana, on Saturday evening, shortly after the day's opening Group D tie between Guinea and Botswana will have ended.

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