FIFA U-17 WC: Mali switches on attack mode

The qualifier from Group B has notched up eight goals in three league matches (first two games at D.Y. Patil followed by one at Jawaharlal Nehru stadium); each strike scored in open play against Paraguay, Turkey and New Zealand in that order.

Lassana N'Diaye, making his debut this year, is Mali's leading scorer with three strikes from as many appearances.   -  Vivek Bendre

Mali, finalist at the U-17 World Cup in Chile (2015), is only three matches away from marching into its second final and Iraq will feel the pace and power of its spirited opponent when the two teams square off in the Round-of-16 (pre-quarterfinal) at Margao.

The  African champion is already the best team in this tournament when on the attack (85 shots at goal against the tournament average 47.8 shots at target per team).

The qualifier from Group B has notched up eight goals in three league matches (first two games at D.Y. Patil followed by one at Jawaharlal Nehru stadium); each strike scored in open play against Paraguay, Turkey and New Zealand in that order.

 FIFA U-17 WC: Six of the best from group stages

Lassana N'Diaye, making his debut this year, is the team's leading scorer with three strikes from as many appearances. The Mali No. 19's goal against Paraguay on the World Cup’s opening day can be listed among the tournament’s best in the group stages - He latched onto a pass from behind by Djemoussa Traore and beat goalkeeper Diego Huesca’s charge with a left-footed shot on the run from beyond the left post. The charismatic forward represents Guidars FC back home along with team-mate Salam Jiddou.

Salam (jersey no 10),  a midfielder with hair in braids, lashed an exciting long-range goal against New Zealand when a cut back by Djemoussa at the edge of the box, was rifled into the top right corner.

The post-goal celebration by the duo was stylish - tapping palms and rocking to a silent rhythm. Besides eight goals from open play so far, the African nation has entertained fans and kept rival goalkeepers in a state of anxiety with 41 attempts off target, 21 shots saved and 15 blocked.

However, the deft touch and angles to convert setpiece situations have eluded Mali, but the encounter against Iraq (October 17) may just bring the best out of the African squad.  The winner of the match will go on to face either Ghana or Niger in the quarterfinal at Guwahati.

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