Port Elizabeth — It cannot be easy to pick yourself up after the bitter disappointment of a semi-final defeat at the African Nations Cup, but Mali made a valiant effort and were rewarded with the bronze medal.
Saturday night's 3-1 win over Ghana at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth came in rainy and slippery conditions, in marked contrast to the fine weather that has characterised almost all of the tournament in South Africa.
It did make passing need to be a bit more accurate but did not detract from a good contest between two sides who had had met in the group phase less than a fortnight earlier.
Ghana had won that game at the same stadium with a first-half penalty, but it was Mali who gained a measure of revenge as they made up for the harrowing loss to Nigeria in their semi-final in Durban on Wednesday.
"After the semi-final defeat we were sad and disappointed. When I spoke to the players before the play-off match I wanted them to realise that the war has effectively come to an end in Mali while we have been at the tournament and we go back to a new country," said coach Patrice Carteron.
"I'm sure the people are proud of what the team did in this competition because players were under pressure with all of what was happening back home. They wanted so much to give joy to the people.
"I'm really proud of what we did because it was not so easy to win this game after our defeat in the semi-final. We are an inexperienced country in football. We've never won the Nations Cup. But with players like Seydou Keita, more and more we will feel more confident and if we work like we did this year, Mali is going to win this competition in the years ahead.
"Mali was mentioned as a possible winner before the start of the competition but we are not a country with a lot of money to spend on our preparations. We are not one of the big football nations of Africa.
"What Mali did last year to finish third at the Nations Cup was unbelievable. This year to come with younger players and again finish in third place is something fantastic," the coach added.