Mali coach Patrice Carteron will consider fielding many of his fringe players with limited Africa Cup of Nations game time when the team take on Ghana in the playoff for third and fourth places at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on Saturday.
The Eagles will hope history is repeated when they face the Black Stars on Saturday for the bronze medal.
Ghana defeated Mali 2-0 in the first round of the 2012 championship only for the losers to bounce back and win the third-place playoff by the same scoreline, courtesy of a Cheick Tidiane Diabate brace.
“Of course the players were disappointed losing to Nigeria, but they have to be realistic and realise that it is a good thing that they are playing this game,” Carteron said on Friday afternoon.
“I’m going to put the best team on the field tomorrow, but I have to take care of the situation. Most of the players gave 100 percent and are very tired both mentally and physically.
“The best thing might be to put some young players in, because they will want to show me that I can trust them for the future.
Mali, who finished second in group B behind Ghana, beat host nation South Africa 3-1 on penalties in the quarter-finals at the weekend, before going down to a heavy 4-1 defeat by Nigeria on Wednesday.
The showdown on Saturday will be a repeat of Mali and Ghana’s group stage fixture, which the Black Stars won 1-0 at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on January 24, when a first half Mubarak Wakaso penalty earned Ghana victory.
Carteron stressed the importance of his team concentrating on the job at hand and played down suggestions that the playoff game was one fans cared little about.
“Of course we are disappointed,” he said.
“We could not reach our dream of making it to the final, but our defeat in the semifinals cannot make us forget all the good times that we had during this tournament.
“We have to focus on the situation. It is an important game for us because it is really difficult to have finished third last year and now we have to play for third and fourth again this year.
“The Afcon tournament is a really difficult competition and we saw that this year, like every time. We must do our best to keep our third place.”
Meanwhile, Ghana lost on penalties to Burkina Faso in Nelspruit after a controversial 1-1 draw.
The Ghanians were awarded a dubious penalty, and Burkina Faso star Jonathan Pitroipa was harshly red-carded, a punishment which has since been overturned, allowing him to be available for the final.