With a host of top talent which plies its trade in Europe's biggest leagues, Les Aigles certainly have the ability to reach at least the last eight of AFCON for the first time in a decade.
South Africa are back having failed to qualify for two of the last three tournaments.
And they may find it tough getting out of Group E which also features experienced campaigners Tunisia and a wildcard Namibia team.
Date, kick-off time and venue
Mali vs South Africa is scheduled for an 8pm GMT kick-off today, Tuesday, January 16, 2024.
The match will take place at Amadou Gon Coulibaly Stadium in Korhogo.
Where to watch Mali vs South Africa
TV channel: In the UK, today's game will be televised live on Sky Sports Football and Sky Sports Main Event.
Live stream: Subscribers can also catch the contest live online via the Sky Go app.
Live blog: You can follow all the action on matchday via Standard Sport’s live blog.
Mali vs South Africa team news
Tottenham midfielder Yves Bissouma will be key to Mali's set-up in Ivory Coast, while Kamory Doumbia is hoping to break out at the tournament after five goals in just nine caps for his country.
But injuries have taken their toll with Cheick Doucoure of Crystal Palace, Almeria striker Ibrahima Kone, Moussa Djenepo and Massadio Haidara all unavailable.
Bafana Bafana coach Hugo Broos hopes to have captain Ronwen Williams fit to keep goal despite a knee complaint.
Themba Zwane (knee) and Mothobi Mvala (groin) are also doubts.
The vast majority of the South African team is made up of domestic-based players and does not feature Burnley striker Lyle Foster, who declined to play at AFCON for mental health reasons.
Mali vs South Africa prediction
Goals are the big issue for South Africa and a talented Mali team may have too much for them.
Mali to win, 1-0.
Head to head (h2h) history and results
Two first-half goals helped South Africa to victory in their last meeting with Mali, a 2019 friendly in Port Elizabeth.
Mali wins: 2
South Africa wins: 1
Mali vs South Africa match odds
South Africa: 16/5
Odds via Bet365 (subject to change).