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FIFA U-17 World Cup: New Zealand, Mali take contrasting approaches ahead of clash

New Zealand and Mali both geared up for their FIFA U-17 World Cup Group B encounter with unique practice techniques.

fifa u17 world cup 2017 Updated: Oct 11, 2017 20:45 IST
Shayne Dias
Shayne Dias
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
FIFA U-17 World Cup,New Zealand vs Mali,New Zealand Football Team
Mali face New Zealand in their final Group B encounter at the FIFA U-17 World Cup on Thursday.(AP)

New Zealand have remained a steady presence in the Round of 16 of the FIFA U-17 World Cup in recent years, having qualified out of their group stages three times in the last four editions of the tournament.

However, their chances of making it out of Group B took a significant hit after their 4-2 loss to Paraguay, which left them with just one point from two group games.

This means that New Zealand’s final group game against 2015 U-17 World Cup runners up Mali is now a must-win match for them. Mali are the favourites going into this tie given their standing on the points table. However, they showed no let up in intensity during their final training session on the eve of the game.

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Mali started their training session in a unique manner. Lining up the way teams do before the start of a game, they proceeded to sing their national anthem in an attempt to lift their spirits.

The players then broke into groups of two, lined up on opposite sides and practiced their passing. The emphasis of their training remained largely on getting the short passes right, suggesting they might look to keep possession and tire out their opponents. Whilst the outfield players focused on short passes, the goalkeepers warmed up and trained separately in a corner of the pitch.

All-round effort

The New Zealand squad, who were scheduled to train an hour after their opponents, began their session with a quick warm-up and then looked to work on quick transitional play from defence to attack.

Players split into two sides, with one side lining up to attack whilst the other looked to take up key on-field positions without actually attempting to stop the attacking moves.

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Their emphasis was on moving the ball as quickly as possible. A single transition consisted of no more than six to eight passes. After this, some players took to practicing their shooting, first from close range then from distance. The forwards even practiced their volleys, with varying degrees of success.

Meanwhile, the remaining players worked on their long passing. Players split into pairs, then took up positions on either side of the field and aimed lobbed balls to one another.

Given that Mali only need a draw tomorrow whilst New Zealand must win to be guaranteed a spot in the next round, the Oceania champions’ ensured they left nothing to chance ahead of the crucial encounter.

First Published: Oct 11, 2017 20:45 IST