Hamari Traore predicts Mali youth success to extend to senior side

By Oluwashina OkelejiBBC Sport
Reims' Malian defender Hamari Traore
Reims' Malian defender Hamari Traore

Mali international defender Hamari Traore believes the country can use its impressive run at youth level as a springboard to further success at senior level.

The West Africans finished third at this year's Fifa U-20 World Cup in New Zealand and are set to face Croatia in the quarter-finals of the U-17 world Cup in Chile on Sunday.

Traore, who plays his club football in France for Reims, is confident that the next generation of talent can help the Eagles to greater heights.

"It's a good time for Malian football and our recent success should help push us to excel at senior level as well," 23-year old Traore told BBC Sport.

"The U20s came third at the World Cup; the U17s have reached the quarterfinals in Chile. It's good for the confidence of our country and we have to keep going.

"There is a lot of quality in all the national teams and that's why I think we have the momentum to take Mali to another level," Traore added.

For all their successes on the international scene at youth level, the Mali senior side have struggled to make an impact at global level.

The Eagles have never qualified for the Fifa World Cup or won the Africa Cup of Nations despite being runners-up in 1972 and finishing third in 2012 and 2013.

Mali were beaten 3-2 by Congo in the final in Cameroon 43 years ago, and Traore believes the current generation have sufficient firepower to change the fortunes of the country.

"People always say we have a good team, that's true," he said.

"However now we no longer have [Seydou] Keita or [Mahamadou] Diarra whenever we play.

"Right now what we have is a good generation of players coming through and the coach [Alain Giresse] believes in giving the youth a chance."

Mali will face Botswana in a two-legged 2018 World Cup qualifier on 14 and 17 November, with the winner advancing to the final group phase to decide Africa's five representatives at the tournament in Russia.

Traore added: "It's a big chance for everyone to come together, act and play like one family.

"If we can follow in the footsteps of our performance at the Fifa youth tournaments, then we can make it happen by playing at the 2018 World Cup.

"With a family mind-set and great performance in the qualifiers that way we can also dominate like Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Egypt and Ghana."

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