FIFA U-17 World Cup: Mali upstage Ghana twice in six months, enter semis
Mali, the African U-17 champions, prevailed over their western African opponents Ghana in the quarter-final on a rain-sodden pitch in Guwahati. In the semifinals, they will face the winners of the clash between Spain and Iran.fifa u17 world cup 2017 Updated: Oct 21, 2017 21:08 IST
Mali upstaged Ghana 2-1 at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium on a rainy Saturday evening to reach the semi-finals of the FIFA U-17 World Cup. It was Mali’s second win over their West African rivals after the U-17 Africa Cup of Nations final six months ago.
Mali will face the winners of the Iran-Spain quarterfinal in Kochi on Sunday in their bid to retain the U-17 World Cup for Africa.
Mali had reached the final of the 2015 edition but were outclassed by Nigeria 2-0, who had won the 2013 Cup too by beating Mexico 3-0.
Mali adapt to conditions
Mali adapted better to the rain-induced soggy conditions to dictate the pace of the match, earning two free-kicks in the first three minutes. But the match could have been decided on penalties had a 40th minute right-footer by Ghana midfielder Ibrahim Sulley not been disallowed.
Forward Hadji Drame drew first blood for Mali in the 15th minute with a solo run from the right flank after a pass from midfielder Djemoussa Traore. Mali came close to scoring at least twice before the break.
Mali went 2-0 up 16 minutes after the breather when Traore cashed in on a defensive error by Ghana goalkeeper Danlad Ibrahim.
But more than Ibrahim, midfielder Kudus Mohammed would perhaps rue pushing an opponent in the Mali box a fraction of a second before Sulley scored what would have been Ghana’s equaliser. Algerian referee Mehdi Abid Charef spotted the foul to disallow the goal.
Ghana narrow lead
Mohammed made amends by converting a 72nd minute penalty after Mali defender Fode Konate brought down Ghana substitute Sadiq Ibrahim in the box.
But his first-half misadventure and Ibrahim’s ‘brain fade’ moment in the second half were not what their coach Samuel Kwasi Fabin would have prescribed against a faster, more dominant Mali, who had denied Ghana their third U-17 African Cup of Nations title six months ago in Gabon.
“Our boys overcame wet conditions to score a memorable victory over a good side. But we have to be better in the semi-final,” Mali coach Jonas Kokou Komla said.
His Ghana counterpart Fabin wished Mali the best for Africa. He agreed the goal disallowed made the difference to a match that could have been decided on penalties.