Dom­i­nant Mali dis­man­tle New Zealand to en­ter knock­outs

Hindustan Times (Gurgaon) - - Fifa U17 World Cup - Shayne.dias@hin­dus­tan­times.com

Two-time African U-17 cham­pi­ons Mali thrashed New Zealand 3-1 to en­ter the knock­out rounds of the FIFA U-17 World Cup. Goals from Jid­dou Salam, Dje­moussa Traore and Las­sana N’Di­aye were enough to end New Zealand’s hopes of di­rectly mak­ing it to the round of 16.

From the get-go, it was ap­par­ent that Mali came into the game with the in­ten­tion of dom­i­nat­ing pos­ses­sion. Through­out the course of the game, they ex­e­cuted it to per­fec­tion. Hav­ing worked ex­ten­sively on their short passes dur­ing train­ing the pre­vi­ous evening, they con­stantly kept the ball and didn’t look in any rush to cre­ate chances. New Zealand sat back in the early pe­riod, likely hop­ing to ab­sorb the early pres­sure and then later pick their op­po­nents off on the break should the chance arise. How­ever, Mali didn’t al­low New Zealand the room to break pace and the African team grew in con­fi­dence as the min­utes wore on.

They looked the like­lier to score and the break­through ar­rived in the 18th minute when Jid­dou Salam launched a thun­der­ing shot into the top-right cor­ner fol­low­ing Dje­moussa Traore’s lay-off. Mali were in front, and de­servedly so.

The rest of the half saw Mali pa­tiently keep the ball while New Zealand, now a goal be­hind, pushed for­ward in search of an equaliser be­fore the break.

How­ever, they only man­aged a soli­tary shot on tar­get in the first half and even that wasn’t enough to sig­nif­i­cantly trou­ble Mali shot­stop­per Yous­souf Koita.

The sec­ond half saw Mali con­tinue to dom­i­nate and they dou­bled their lead in the 541st minute when Dje­moussa Traore’s shot ri­fled into the back of the net. The African side con­tin­ued to cre­ate chances and should have been 3-0 up when Las­sana N’Di­aye headed wide from close range af­ter New Zealand goal­keeper Zac Jones par­ried Fode Konate’s shot straight into his path.

Eight min­utes af­ter this, New Zealand pulled one back through sec­ond half sub­sti­tute Charles Spragg, giv­ing New Zealand some hope of pulling off an up­set.

How­ever, those hopes were ended once and for all when Las­sana N’Di­aye fin­ished well from close range to re­store Mali’s ad­van­tage and snuff out New Zealand’s brief re­sis­tance.

New Zealand coach Danny Hay was quick to admit that Mali were the bet­ter side. “We knew that Mali are a dom­i­nant side.”

Mali's Boubacar Haidara & NZ's Mathew Palmer fight for the ball.

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