FIFA U17 WC: For Mali, solidarity is key

Mali defeated Ghana in the African U-17 Championships in Gabon, gaining FIFA under-17 World Cup qualification for the second consecutive time.

A file picture of the FIFA Under-17 World Cup.

African teams love to flaunt skill and flex muscle on the football pitch. Mali, the finalist of the 2015 event, cannot be different and will be closely watched. Hadji Drame in the forwardline and Youssuf Koita under the bar are tipped to turn heads in U-17 World Cup.

Jonas Komla, the chief coach, lays stress on “solidarity” as the factor keeping the squad together in Group B.  “First of all we concentrate on qualifying from the pool and as we go up, things will improve for us.” Komla and his players are not getting worked up about the high expectation as the flag-bearer of African football. “We don’t feel the pressure. It is a motivation to do better after winning the African Cup.”

Mali defeated Ghana in the African U-17 Championships in Gabon, gaining World Cup qualification for the second consecutive time. Komla was queried about the African teams' struggle to make an impact in senior FIFA events. Nigeria, a five-time champion in U-17, is an example of exciting junior players stumbling as they move up.

The Mali coach explained: “When the players are very young, coaches have enough time to work on them. Natural talent forged with continuity produces exciting players. As they move beyond U-20 and join different clubs, they develop own styles after getting exposed to different leagues.”

"The team trained in United Arab Emirates before reaching here and will take one match at a time," he added.