Ibrahima Cissé captains Mail U23s to a 2-1 win in Uzbekistan

As part of their preparations for the Olympics, Mali U23s played a friendly in Uzbekistan on Monday (10/6). FC Schalke 04 centre-back Ibrahima Cissé captained his side to a 2-1 win and played the full game.

Wilson Samaké of Stade Rennais scored the winning goal a minute before the end in Tashkent, converting a penalty for Mali. Thiemoko Diarra, who plays for French second-division side LB Châteauroux, initially put Mali ahead three minutes into the second half, before Khusayin Norchaev of Neftchi Fergana was able to equalise in the 58th minute.

The two teams also faced off three days before this meeting, drawing 1-1 at the same venue. Schalke’s number 22 didn’t feature on that occasion. Wolverhampton Wanderers’ Boubacar Traoré levelled the game in the 62nd minute after Alisher Odilov (FC Olympic) had opened the scoring after 23 minutes.

Both Mali and Uzbekistan have qualified for the Olympics after their performances at the recent U-23 Africa Cup of Nations and AFC U-23 Asian Cup respectively. The tournament will be played in France across July and August. Cissé and Mali have been drawn in a group with Israel, Japan and Paraguay.

Churlinov and Idrizi also in action

Darko Churlinov and Blendi Idrizi, who are under contract at the Royal Blues until the end of the month, were also in action with their national sides over the past week.

Churlinov was an unused substitute in North Macedonia’s 2-1 defeat away to Czechia on Monday night (10/6). Antonin Barak from Fiorentina scored the winning goal for the hosts from the spot in injury time. Czechia’s other goal also came from 12 yards out through Patrik Schick in the 60th minute. Isnik Alimi (Sepsi OSK) had equalised for the visitors in the 65th minute.

Churlinov featured against Croatia in their previous game, playing 25 minutes in a 3-0 loss. VfL Wolfsburg’s Lovro Majer scored twice for his nation (10’, 45’), while Marco Pasalic of HNK Rijeka added a third 11 minutes from time.

Kosovo’s game against Norway on Wednesday (5/6) also ended in a 3-0 defeat. Idrizi played the first half as Manchester City’s Erling Haaland scored a hat-trick.

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