Johannesburg - Mali coach Patrice Carteron has played down the physical advantage his team will hold over South Africa when the two countries meet in the Africa Cup of Nations quarter-finals later this week.
The physique of west African players has always been seen as a major obstacle for the smaller South Africans and it is something that both camps have constantly been quizzed about during the build-up.
Bafana Bafana will play the Eagles at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban on Saturday.
“That’s not how I see it,” he retorted when asked about it on Wednesday.
“I’ve watched all the games of the competition and I’ve seen South Africa as one of the most well prepared so far.
“You can see the coach knows all the players, physically they are in great shape and they run a lot.
“Physically I don’t see them having any problems because they have other important attributes in their own game.
The Malian boss also reiterated his belief that South Africa will be the favourites.
On Tuesday, his counterpart Gordon Igesund said that comments by Carteron calling Bafana the favourites were “mind games”, pointing towards the large difference in world rankings as proof to his own explanation.
Mali are ranked 60 places above the home team in the world rankings, sitting in 25th place and third in Africa.
“I think they will have a 60-40 advantage going into the game, it’s logical,” the French coach said.
“When you play at home with the atmosphere, the crowd and the whole country behind you, it’s normal.
“But I know we have a chance. We will give 100 percent to try and qualify. I do respect South Africa, I do respect their coach.”
Most of the Mali’s regular players were given a second day off from training, with only fringe members participating in training at the Chatsworth Stadium, south of Durban.
“We want the starting players to relax, but even though they are at the hotel, we have two physios there with them, ensuring they feel better,” he explained.
“Most of them have specific routines."
“But it’s normal to take a break for two days after the game, if you’ve given 100 percent then you don’t need to work so hard. We’ll prepare from tomorrow, but for now we just taking it easy.”
Carteron reported a clean bill of health for his side, including good news that senior midfielder Momo Sissoko was “fine” after he hobbled off with a suspected leg injury during the 1-1 draw against Democratic Republic of Congo on Monday.
Goalkeeper Mamadou Samassa will miss the game due to suspension.