FIFA U-17 WC: Mali thrashes Iraq in one-sided contest

FIFA 2015 U-17 WC runner-up Mali - led by a Lassana N'diaye brace - thrashed Iraq 5-1 in a largely one-sided contest to advance to the quarterfinals.

Mali's Lassana N'Diaye (in yellow) had a great outing as he netted a brace in his side's 5-1 win over Iraq on Tuesday.   -  K. Murali Kumar

Lassana N’Diaye’s double put Mali on course to reverse its 2015 final loss as it humbled Iraq 5-1 in the Round-of-16 tie here at the Fatorda stadium on Tuesday. In the process, it sounded title-winning credentials to its FIFA U-17 World Cup rivals in its all-out attacking display.

Hadji Drame and N’Diaye scored first-half goals to help Mali to take control of the match early on. Djemoussa Traore was exhilarating as both Salam Giddou and Mamadou Samake picked out passes to match the winger’s devastating runs.

MATCH CENTRE

Iraq, without its top-scorer Mohammed Dawood, threw everything it had against its opposition but the technical ability and the physical advantage between the two sides were gaping. Three second-half goals further reinforced the narrative of the West African nation’s domination.

Coming into this fixture, Mali had the most shots on goal (85) and by the end of the night, it continued on in the same vein. After a slow start, the African champion’s skipper Mohamed Camara burst into the box and unleashed a shot with his left foot which was pawed away by an outstretched Ali Ibadi.

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This lifted the Mali side which began to showcase its one-touch passing game in the middle of the park before releasing it's pacey forwards to exploit space in behind the Iraq's defence.

In the 23 minute, Drame sprinted to the edge of the box on the right side to float in a cross towards Lassana N’Diaye. The striker brought it down under control but his shot on the turn was straight at Ibadi.

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Mali took the lead within a couple of minutes from a move which has been a regular highlight of its attacking display in the tournament. Giddou was first to a high ball and raced to the byline in possession which drew in the Iraqi backline towards. Drame was released to enter the space created to hammer home the opening goal.

Iraq had its best opportunity to equalize right after the first-half water interval from a corner kick. Maytham Jabbar escaped his marker to run to head in a cross from Mohammed Ridha. The ball all but seemed to be heading in towards the back of the net before a crucial finger-tip intervention from Youssouf Koita.

Mali wrestled back any initiative Iraq possessed after that move with its second goal. After a neat interchange by the touchline, Djemoussa delivered an inviting cross for N'Diaye to score a diving header past a helpless Ibadi. Mali’s top-scorer has now scored in all four games he's played.

Iraq came out fighting in the second half in the form of its forward, Ali Kareem. After evading a couple of challenges, he found himself running towards through on goal. But as the long legs of Konate caught up to him, he forced a speculative effort from outside the box which lacked both pace and placement to trouble Koita.

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Ali Raad made his tournament debut at half-time and endured a forgetful outing at the hands of Djemoussa who went past with the former with considerable ease time and again. For all the intricate play from the Mali forwards, the goal of the tie came from Mali’s right-back Konate. A chipped pass from Drame found the Mali no. 4 inside the right edge of the box where he launched a unstoppable shot into the top left corner.

In the 85 minute, Kareem was rewarded for his perseverance when he was sent through on goal from Bassam Shakir to which he applied a clinical finish. There were no hopes for an Iraqi miracle as Mali scored its fourth immediately in the form of substitute Seme Camara, who turned inside the box and slotted the ball low to the left of the ‘keeper.

The Jonas Komla coached side made it a fabulous five on the night when Camara turned provider for N’Diaye to tap in his second goal deep into extra-time.

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