FIFA U-17 World Cup: Spain's finesse vs Mali's force

The semifinal between the two continental champion will be a battle of forwards. Mali has the upper hand in this department, having scored an impressive 15 goals in the tournament, compared to Spain’s 11.

Mali will look to forward Lassana N'diaye to lead its charge.   -  THE HINDU

Mali will take on Spain in the second semifinal of the FIFA U-17 World Cup on Wednesday, at the DY Patil Stadium, in what will be a battle of continental champions. The finesse of the European U-17 champion will be up against the force of its African counterpart as both teams will look to play to their strengths: their forward lines.

READ: Mali outwits Ghana to enter semifinals

Mali has the upper hand in this department, having scored an impressive 15 goals in the tournament with Lassana N'diaye top-scoring with five goals to his name.

Spain has scored 11 goals so far in the tournament, but its defence has been tighter compared to Mali, conceding only four goals – Mali has let in six – and that includes the two it conceded against Brazil (2-1) in the opening game.

Goals Scored1115
Goals Conceded46
Top Scorer Abel Ruiz (4)Lassana N'diaye (5)

On the flip side, the European champion's back line will have to contend with the trigger-happy Mali side, which has taken 128 shots at goal.

Barcelona's Abel Ruiz has been Spain's main attacking threat, scoring 4 goals so far.   -  The Hindu


However, coach Santi feels Wednesday's encounter will be like any other game for his side. “It's no pressure for us, no pressure for the players. Of course it's a challenge and we want to win it (the tournament) for the first time,” he said.

The coach went on to add that his side has got acclimatised to the weather conditions. “Yes, the weather here is different to Spain but after the second match (4-0 win against Niger) we got used to the weather and didn't feel as much fatigue towards the end of the matches.”

But he did concede that Mali has a slight advantage since it's used to similar temperatures. The African side has also played two group games at the DY Patil Stadium.

So, is it advantage for the African champions?

“We do know this venue very well since we've played here earlier. But you never know. This is a semifinal of a World Cup against Spain. It will be a big match for us and we will not underestimate them,” opined Mali coach Jonas Komla.

Clear objective

Just like its opponent, Mali began its campaign with a loss (3-2 vs Paraguay). “Nothing has changed ever since that defeat, our philosophy is to win every match we play. I told the players the loss wasn't the end of the tournament for us. We played the last two group games like they were finals,” said the Tologese coach.

READ: Impressive Spain sinks Iran to enter semifinal

While Spain will have its entire roster to choose from for the big game, Mali will have to do without suspended skipper Mohamed Camara. Coach Komla, however, said the team has the quality to cope without its captain.

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