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27th Dec 2021

Yves Bissouma recalled to Mali squad after three year absence

The Brighton midfielder had not played for his country since 2018 after reportedly falling out with the coach, but will take part in this winter's AFCON

Reuben Pinder

Brighton will be without their best midfielder for the next few weeks

Yves Bissouma has been recalled to the Mali national team after a three year absence for the Africa Cup of Nations, which kicks off on January 9th.

The Brighton midfielder last represented his country in an AFCON qualifier in 2018, before a reported falling out with Mali coach Mohamed Magassouba saw him excluded from the national team set-up.

His return will come as a huge boost for Mali, who also boast who also boast the likes of Amadou Haidara of RB Leipzig and Southampton’s Moussa Djenepo among their ranks.

Brighton might not be so enthused though, saying on Monday that they had not been contacted directly regarding Bissouma’s call-up.

Mali’s AFCON journey begins on 12 January against Tunisia in Limbe, with Gabon and Mauritania also competing in Group F.

There were fears the tournament, which had already been delayed from last summer, could be postponed again or cancelled entirely due to the recent wave of the Omicron Covid-19 variant.

But in the last week, Confederation of African Football (CAF) president, Patrice Motsepe confirmed the tournament would go ahead.

“I’m going to be here on January 7 and I’m coming to watch football,” he said, as reported by Sky Sports.

“I’m coming to watch on January 9 (the opening match between) Cameroon against Burkina Faso.

“I’ll also be around to see when the trophy is handed over.”

Several Premier League clubs will be without key players for the coming weeks as AFCON kicks off, with Liverpool perhaps suffering the most, as Sadio Mané, Mo Salah and Naby keita jet off to play for Senegal, Egypt and Guinea respectively.

However, English clubs will take solace from being granted permission to delay the release of their African players until after the New Year fixtures.

Players were initially expected to fly out on December 27th, but clubs have been told they can keep hold of them until January 3rd. In practical terms, that is two extra league games. With the fixture schedule in such a tangled mess due to Covid-induced postponements, that could make all the difference in a league where such fine margins are decisive.