Barcelona midfielder Seydou Keita has admitted he is under pressure to lead a youthful Mali team to success at the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations.
Along with skipper Cedric Kante, Keita is the most experienced player in Mali's squad here in Gabon and as such, much is expected of him -- particularly in the absence of other established stars like Mahamadou Diarra and Frederic Kanoute.
"Personally, I have been under a lot of pressure but I will continue to assume my responsibilities," said Keita, who spent several minutes giving thanks to Allah immediately after his team upstaged west African rivals Guinea 1-0 in a Group D match on Tuesday night.
"Yes, Im satisfied with the result against Guinea. We played against a very good team, probably one of the best teams after the first round of matches in this competition.
"However, we need to continue to play as a team. A team who depend only on individual players will fail, but a team who are united and play for each other, will always win."
Keita, who captained his country to the last four at the 2002 Nations Cup, has returned to the Mali set-up after a long absence caused by his complaints about the conditions around the team.
The 32-year-old Keita has now won over 65 caps for his country.
On Tuesday, Mali started with 21-year-old defender Mahamadou N'Diaye, 23-year-old striker Cheick Diabate and midfielder Samba Diakite, who at 23 was winning his first official cap for his native country.
Panathinaikos defender Kante is the other old head in the Mali team and he also spoke about being relieved when The Eagles squeezed past sub-regional rivals Guinea in Franceville.
"The win was a relief even if this was not really a decisive match," said the 32-year-old centre back. "After the injury problems we have had, it was great to start with a victory.
"Guinea were a hard team to beat. In the second half, they came at us and it was very difficult for us. There is a lot of pressure, but we are now more confident.
"Victory was very good for our morale and I hope we can do more on Saturday."
Action will continue in Group D on Saturday, when Guinea take on Botswana, who also lost their opening match 1-0, to Ghana, while Mali and Ghana face off in a battle of the top teams.