The match, billed for the MKO Abiola Stadium in Abeokuta is scheduled to begin by 2.00pm local time and the Nigerian team will be hoping to do a double over the Malians whose Under 20 team was recently defeated by Flying Eagles en-route to been crowned Africa Champions in South Africa.
While many Nigerians believe that the team led by Coach Samson Siasia should be able to retain the trophy won by Daniel Amokachi and his lads last year, the Beijing Olympic silver-winning coach was quick to say that much should not be expected from his hurriedly-assembled team.
"These boys have been on break for weeks now, without playing any football, because the league is on break and we had only two days or less to get them ready to play a football match" Siasia had told a sports website.
"That is not right. We should have been told on time, so we could have had more time to prepare these boys.
"I don't know what their conditioning is right now, and you can't knock somebody who has not been playing into shape in two days. But we'll have to do our best," he added.
Point to prove
Siasia noted that the local league could boast of good players and for him the WAFU tournament is a stage for them to prove their worth:
"We have good players in our local league and we need to prove it on the pitch" he said.
"The boys will have to hit the ground running against Mali, as defending champions we are the team to beat" he said.
The second match of the day will see the other two teams in Group A, Liberia and Niger take on to pitch as they both gun for a perfect start to their campaign in the regional tournament.
Meanwhlie David Duncan selects 18 into the Black Meteors to represent Ghana at the WAFU Cup of Nations in Nigeria.
Ghana would open their campaign against Togo on Friday in Group B before coming up against Senegal and Gambia.
The 10-day championships which begins this afternoon will run till May 15, 2011.
The WAFU championship would serve as a good build up towards the Olympic team's qualifying campaign for a place at this year's All Africa Games.