A late Ibrahim Diarra goal proved enough for Mali to sink neighbour Morocco in a pulsating all-African FIFA U-17 World Cup quarterfinal. Les Aigles will now face France in the semifinal on Tuesday.
Mali dominated during an injury-disrupted first period which featured nine minutes of added time. The 2015 finalist almost opening the scoring early on when the ball fell to Hamidou Makalou inside the area, only for the busy Taha Benrhozil to deny him with a fine sprawling save.
When Benrhozil was beaten later in the first half by Mali captain Diarra, Saifdine Chlaghmo got back to clear his goal-bound effort away from danger.
Mali would have to wait until the 81st minute to make the all-important breakthrough. A mazy run into the area by Ibrahim Kanate took him past Benrhozil, and while his effort was miraculously deflected on to the post by Abdelhamid Ait Boudlal, Diarra was on hand to turn home the rebound to give his side a deserved lead.
Morocco very nearly grabbed a late equaliser when Ayman Ennair flicked a corner to the back post, but Adam Boufandar couldn’t divert his attempt goalwards from six yards out.
Mali has now reached the semifinals of the FIFA U-17 World Cup in three of the last four tournaments.
“We played well, we had a lot of situations, we were supposed to conclude the game in the firs half, but today we took our time. It is not our project, we want to score faster in our games. Even if it lasted a long time, we won and now we are in the semi-finals. I think we deserve it,” Soumalia Coulibaly the head coach of Mali said.
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