Mali are the first team into the semi-finals of the 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup with a comfortable win over Ghana. The African champions were on point with their tactical gameplan as well as execution and reduced the strong Ghana side to mere onlookers as they mounted attack after attack in the first half.
In poor playing conditions amidst heavy rainfall, as Ghana struggled to get the ball on their feet and build their game, Mali shone through with their simple yet effective approach.
A penalty midway through the second half raised Ghana's hopes of coming back into the quarter-final but a solid back four of Mali held on for a fine victory at Guwahati.
Full time! Mali beat Ghana 2-1
Mali hold on to their lead and beat Ghana 2-1 to become the first team to advance to the semi-finals of the FIFA U-17 World Cup 2017. Goals from Hadji Drame and Djemoussa had given Mali the lead but Ghana pulled one back from a Kudus Mohammed penalty. Mali endured a nervous final 15 minutes but Ghana failed to find the back of the net.
We are into the final five minutes of normal time as Ghana remain in search of an equalizer. Ghana have enjoyed the crowd support at Guwahati but the scoreline could have been different if only they produced the urgency they have shown in the last fifteen minutes, earlier in the match.
The next goal could very well decide the course of this game as Ghana have their tails up ever since they reduced the deficit. Although Mali's defence has remained calm under pressure, Ghana believe they can get another goal as their consecutive attacking forays into the final third suggest.
Game on! Sadiq Ibrahim wins a penalty for Ghana, as Konate is adjudged to have fouled the substitute. Mohammed converts the penalty, bringing Ghana back into this encounter from nowhere with twenty minutes plus stoppage time remaining to play.
Djemoussa Traore extends Mali's lead as Ghanaian goalkeeper Ibrahim Danlad all but gifted the goal to Mali. Danlad raced off his line for a subpar clearance and followed it up by handling Traore's shot into his own net. Everything that could have gone wrong for Ghana tonight has and Mali are in complete control of the match.
Ghana have upped their tempo in the second half but to no avail, goalscoring opportunities have been rare. The Ghanaian midfield has been pretty much disjointed for the entire game, failing to retain possession and mount pressure on Mali's defence.
The pitch seems to be getting worse by the minute, as Mali continue to comfortably hold on to their slender lead while Ghana attempt to create chances through the middle. Mali's defence has done the basic things right tonight, clearing the ball whenever they are under pressure and not allowing Ghana to play their natural game.
46` Mali 1-0 Ghana
No changes for either side at halftime and we are up and running in the second-half. The water looks to have dried up a bit which will help the Ghanaians immensely and Kudus Mohammed has a crack at goal which is parried away by Koita.
It has been all Mali in the first-half at Guwahati as Ghana have been non-existent in their attack and suspect while defending. Poor finishing on Mali's part is the only reason that Ghana are still trailing by one goal.
The Black Starlets must regroup and bring forth a much better performance in the second half, or else a repeat of the 2017 U-17 AFCON finals is on the cards as Mali seem the likelier of two sides to walk away with all the plaudits from this game.
Halftime! Mali 1-0 Ghana
Mali go into halftime with a one-goal advantage. Hadji Drame put his team in the front in the 15th minute. Ghana have struggled to play their natural game in water-logged pitch whereas Mali have had no trouble playing here. This was also the scoreline earlier this year when Mali had beaten Ghana in the final U-17 African Cup of Nations. The pressure will be on Ghana to mount a comeback and prevent history from repeating itself.
Ghana finally put the ball in the net, but Sulley's goal is disallowed as there was a foul on Kane by Mohammed during the buildup. It is an excellent decision from the Algerian referee as suggested by replays, although it seemed like Ghana had drawn level from nowhere.
35` Mali 1-0 Ghana
Ghana's Najeeb Yakubu is the first player to be booked tonight as he's rightfully penalised for a two-footed lunge. He'll miss the next match should Ghana turn it around against Mali here. However, Mali almost double their advantage but Fode Konate heads it wide from the resultant free-kick.
Boubacar Haidara has been the most involved of Mali's defenders, standing up tall to inside forward Sulley's dribbles and he has completely shut out the Ghanaian winger.
29` Mali 1-0 Ghana
Ghana's pacey attackers are finding it difficult to play their normal game of passing the ball quickly and running in behind the opposition defence as the ball keeps getting stuck beneath their feet. They need to adapt quickly to the conditions to get on level terms here.
Ghana are really struggling with the playing conditions as rain continues to pour down in Guwahati. The ball keeps getting held up in water, disrupting Ghana's rhythm. Mali, meanwhile, seem to be enjoying this fast-paced, end-to-end African battle.
15` GOAL! Hadji Drame gives Mali the lead! Mali 1-0 Ghana
Hadji Drame puts Mali in the lead with a perfect strike as Danlad Ibrahim is rooted to his spot. It is Drame's third goal in the competition and a much-deserved lead for Mali, who have been the better side so far.
Ayiah almost gets Ghana on the scoresheet against the run of play as the captain goes on a solo run through the right flank, only to find the ball deflected onto his path, but his shot is just wide off the post.
Mali are enjoying chance after chance as N'diaye is allowed a free header in the box but the forward fails to hit the target. Ghana, meanwhile, are struggling to play their normal passing game due to the waterlogged conditions.
Mali have the first real chance of the game with Djemoussa Traore's exquisite through-ball finding its way to Jiddou whose cross is just behind N'diaye. The ball finds its way to Drame, whose shot is wide.
Mali have started confidently with Lassana N'diaye finding the ball at his feet in a dangerous position on two different occasions, but Ghana's defensive line is yet to be breached.
Kick off! Mali 0-0 Ghana
Ghana get us underway and from the first pass itself, we can see that passing will be difficult today on the water-logged pitch. Mali get the ball in the Ghana penalty box but the ball is held up several times in the water before a Mali player commits a foul.
It had been raining heavily in Guwahati and the pitch looks waterlogged in certain areas but the officials have decided that the ground is suitable for play today. The teams stride onto the pitch and after the exchange of pre-match pleasantries, we're all set to go!
In a repeat of the U-17 African Cup of Nations final from earlier in the year, these two West African countries will battle for a berth in the semi-finals under cloudy skies in Guwahati.
Both Mali and Ghana suffered a defeat each during the group stages; the former to Paraguay and the latter to the USA, but were comfortable victors in their Round of 16 encounters against Iraq and Niger respectively.
While both nations have prolific goalscorers spearheading their attack, it will be Ghana's defensive superiority which suggests the Black Starlets will be the favourites in this high-pressure encounter of familiar opponents.
It will be the battle between two African footballing heavyweights when Mali will take on Ghana at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium in Guwahati in the first quarter-final of the 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup.
Hello and welcome to the live coverage of the FIFA U-17 World Cup 2017. We are in the quarter-final stage of the tournament and this is where things start to heat up. The first quarter-final of the day is a replay of the 2017 CAF U-17 Africa Cup of Nations final when Mali face Ghana. Mamadou Samake's goal had given Mali the title and they'll be looking for a repeat of that match today.
Preview: Ghana will be out to settle scores when they meet west African rivals Mal in the quarter-finals of the FIFA U-17 World Cup on Saturday.
The contest will be a replay of the CAF U-17 Africa Cup of Nations final in Gabon earlier this year where Mali defeated Ghana 1-0 thanks to a first-half strike by Mamadou Samake.
Ghana have been the more impressive team in this competition and will fancy their chances of extracting revenge for the defeat in Gabon.
Ghana will be boosted by the return of right winger Sadiq Ibrahim who was suspended for the Round of 16 clash against Niger.
Sadiq was impressive in the group matches, creating all sorts of problems for rival defences with his speed and accurate balls into the box.
Rashid Alhassan has also performed well down the left flank and with skipper Eric Ayiah and striker Emmanuel Toku making good use of the service from the wings with their excellent finishing and off the ball movement, Ghana have the ability to crack open any defence in this tournament.
Mali, however, will not be easy opponents.
They have won the CAF U-17 Africa Cup of Nations twice in a row — the first team to do so in the history of the tournament.
Although they do not possess the attacking ability of Ghana, Mali does boast of a well-oiled defensive structure which may give the Ghana forwards a run for their money.
Mali have the ability to score from outside the rival penalty box and the Ghana defenders as well as their goalkeeper Danlad Ibrahim will have to be on their toes.
It should be a tough, physical battle between two sets of players with superb tactical acumen and the local crowd at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium are in for a cracker of a contest.