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FIFA U-17 World Cup: Clash of philosophies on cards in Mali vs Spain semifinal

Spain would rely on the goal-scoring form of striker Abel Ruiz and partner Sergio Gomez in the match against Mali on Wednesday, for a spot in the final of the FIFA U-17 World Cup to be held in Kolkata on October 28.

fifa u17 world cup 2017 Updated: Oct 24, 2017 22:38 IST
Sarthak Bal
Sarthak Bal
Hindustan Times, Mumbai
FIFA U-17 World Cup,Mali national football team,Spain national football team
Mali have been the most attacking team at the FIFA U-17 World Cup, having scored 15 times so far, and they plan to continue their style of play against Spain in the semifinal on Wednesday.(FIFA)

Mali, FIFA U-17 World Cup’s most attacking team, meet purists Spain in the semifinals in what could turn out to be a battle of football philosophies at the DY Patil Stadium on Wednesday.

Mali, powered by striker Lassana Ndiaye’s five goals, have overcome opponents with their physical presence, technical superiority and goal-scoring prowess, and seem to have adapted better with the Indian weather compared to the other teams.

Despite losing their opening game to Paraguay in Mumbai, they have managed to score 15 goals en route their second consecutive semifinal appearance at the Fifa U-17 World Cup.

With 128 attempts to their credit, Mali have established themselves as the most attack-minded team of the tournament, and all their goals have come from open plays.

However, they have conceded many goals too. Despite the heroics of their custodian Youssouf Koita -- who has made as many as 19 spectacular saves so far -- the Malians have let in six goals, two on them from the penalty spot.

But Mali will stick to their style of play against Spain, going forward with abandon, said coach Jonas Komla.

“Our philosophy is to play the game and win matches. Even our loss to Paraguay didn’t change anything. We are on track with our objective,” said Komla.

Spain, on the other hand, have been relatively more steady at the back. They have conceded four and have improved with every match in the tournament though they did struggle against Brazil and France, losing to the South Americans and edging out the Europeans in a touch match.

They lost 1-1 to Brazil in their opening group stage match, finding the net courtesy of an own goal, while they went past France in the Round of 16 thanks to a penalty in the dying minutes.

Reflecting on their outings so far, Spain’s U-17 coach Santiago Denia said they ‎will have to improve on all fronts if they are to get the better of Mali.

“We have to get better in defence and offence. We know that we are playing against a very physical team. We know that we cannot play a counter-attack game against them,” said Denia.

He revealed that his side will stick to their playing style, just like Mali would, and insisted that their opponents’ physical prowess won’t be the decisive factor.

“We will not be playing a transitional game, but stick to our playing style,” said Denia. “Mali are a very good team who attack from the sides, especially the full backs. And although they are physically strong or bigger than us, I don’t think that’s a disadvantage.”.

Spain would rely heavily on the goal-scoring form of striker Abel Ruiz, who has netted four times in the tournament, and his strike partner Sergio Gomez in the match against the African champions for a spot in the final of the FIFA U-17 World Cup to be held in Kolkata on October 28.

First Published: Oct 24, 2017 22:32 IST