Mali inflicted a harsh dose of reality on Africa Cup of Nations debutants Mauritania by routing the newcomers 4-1 on Monday in their first ever game at the tournament.
After decades being among the weakest African football nations، the largely desert northwestern country have reached the expanded 24-team competition for the first time.
Long regarded as pushovers، Mauritania have improved steadily under French coach Corentin Martins، but they were blown away by a Mali side who faced the threat of disqualification in the build-up to the event.
Coach Mohamed Magassouba has emphasized youth although it was one of his elder statesmen، 28-year-old captain Abdoulay Diaby، who set Mali on their way in Suez with a 20-yard rocket into the top corner after 37 minutes.
Moussa Marega، among the leading scorers in this season's UEFA Champions League، converted a penalty to double the lead before half-time after goalkeeper Brahim Souleymane committed a foul as he attempted to smother a shot he spilled.
Adama 'Noss' Traore smacked in a third with a sweet low drive 10 minutes after half-time، but Mauritania pulled a goal back when Hacen calmly dispatched a penalty after Mamadou Fofana impeded Ismael Diakite.
Any hopes of a Mauritania fight back were instantly scrubbed away though when substitute Adama Traore، who had earlier replaced his namesake، curled a marvellous strike beyond a helpless Souleymane.
The Mauritania 'keeper was remarkably fortunate to finish the game after the referee took a lenient view on his cynical takedown of Marega، Souleymane escaping with a yellow card after a rash charge out of his area.