FIFA U-17 World Cup: Spain beat Mali 3-1 to set up historic all-European final
A brace from Abel Ruiz and a second half header from Ferran Torres saw Spain beat Mali 3-1 in their semi-final clash of the FIFA U-17 World Cup.Updated: Oct 26, 2017 00:17 IST
Hindustan Times, Mumbai
Two European nations fighting for global football supremacy is not unusual at senior level, but it is at the U-17 level. Not since the the FIFA U-17 World Cup was started in 1985 have two European teams met in the final in this age-group tournament.
Spain upstaged Mali 3-1 in the second semi-final on Wednesday at the DY Patil Stadium to set up a mouth-watering clash against England in Kolkata on Saturday.
England forward Rhian Brewster’s hat-trick eliminated crowd favourites Brazil 3-1 in the first semi-final at Kolkata.
The high-scoring Mali met their match in a fully-packed DY Patil Stadium. A first half brace from skipper Abel Ruiz and a second half Ferran Torres header rounded off a commanding performance by the Spaniards.
Mali did make a strong point of their quality by getting a consolation goal through Lassana Ndiaye’s second half effort. However, they will be dejected over the disallowed goal in the 62nd minute.
Dominance with the ball
Spain steadily asserted their dominance with controlled passing game originating at the back. Their chances came from well-crafted link ups in the middle as they registered two shots on goal in the opening 10 minutes.
Spain’s first clear cut-chance came with skipper Abel Ruiz using his strength to get to the sideline and float a dangerous cross into the box that deflected into the path of Sergio Gomez. He forced Mali goalkeeper Youssouf Koita into making a very good save.
Mali responded with Hadji Drame playing a wonderful ball to Ndiaye, who tapped it past a rushing Spain goalkeeper Alvaro Fernandez only to see his shot find the side netting. The Africans did manage to create a few more openings, but their attempts were largely off target.
Spain took the lead in the 19th minute. Cesar Gelabert was brought down in the box by Abdoulaye Diaby and Abel Ruiz side-footed the penalty into the net. It was the third penalty Mali conceded in the tournament.
Spain continued to open up space with Victor Chust racing past a couple of Mali defenders in the 32nd minute and driving in a low cross to Abel Ruiz, whose stretching foot could only direct it wide of Koita’s goal.
But Spain doubled their lead in the 43rd minute. Gelabert won the ball in the middle and played a through ball into the path of Ruiz, who slid it past a rushing Koita into the right corner.
Fightback in vain
The crowd seemed to be on top of their game as they urged Mali to fight back. Midfielder Chiek Doucoure dispatched a thunderous shot that rattled the bottom of the bar and drop, in the 62nd minute. Ndiaye could only head wide.
However, the ball had clearly crossed the goal-line as confirmed by replays on the big screen, prompting the Mali bench to break out in protest. The referee showed the yellow card to a Mali support staff.
As Mali looked to put their disappointment behind them, Ferran Torres sealed it to for Spain in 71st minute. Sergio Gomez put in a perfectly weighted ball to the far corner as Torres rose to head into the bottom corner.
The African champions did manage to score as Ndiaye won the ball back off Hugo Guillamon in the Spanish box before slotting it past Alvaro in the 74th minute.
First Published: Oct 26, 2017 00:14 IST