Mali became the second African country to qualify for a World Championships after reaching the final of the International Blind Sports Federation (IBSA) Blind Football African Championships last October, which they lost to Morocco. They are currently ranked world No. 18.
Here are five things you should know about Mali in the build-up to Madrid 2018.
• Mali Blind Football was established in 2015 by both the Malian sports authorities and Libre Vue association, who have been developing blind football in Bamako, the capital of Mali, since 2012.
• In the same year the national team was formed, they competed in the 2015 IBSA Blind Football African Championships in Douala, Cameroon, achieving bronze for the first time.
• At the 2017 African Championships, the Eagles scored a grand total of twenty goals in the group stages, winning two out of three games to fly into the final against Morocco.
• They lost to Morocco 8-1, but they picked up silver, improving their podium finish from 2015 and qualifying for the World Championships for the first time in their history.
• Mali’s captain Mamadou Thiam, who shined at the 2017 African Championships, will be the player to watch. His brilliance in attack could surprise some of the strongest defences in Madrid.
The 2018 IBSA Blind Football World Championships will be held in Madrid, Spain, from 7-17 June, and will feature 16 of the world’s best teams. As well as the title on offer, the competition is also an important step on the road to the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics.