Abuja – African champions Mali on Thursday in Chile reached their first ever FIFA U-17 World Cup final, courtesy of a resounding 3-1 victory against Belgium.
The Europeans had taken the lead through Dante Rigo, but Boubacar Traore’s swift response was followed by second half goals from Sidiki Maiga and Sekou Koita.
Belgium took the lead through a sumptuous through ball by Jorn Vancamp who found space in between the Malian midfield and defence.
He lofted a pass with the outside of his right foot to the onrushing Rigo who showed great composure to finish for his second goal in two games.
The midfielder’s effort ended Mali’s run of over 300 minutes without conceding at Chile 2015.
But the Malians struck back swiftly, with Aly Malle matching Vancamp’s assist with a delicious cross of his own with the outside of his left foot.
The ball missed everyone but Traore followed in, lashing home from inside the penalty area.
The remainder of the first half saw the two sides exchange attacks, and it was clear for all to see that these teams knew each other inside out.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that they had met in Talca on Oct. 18 in their opening Group D fixture, with the game ending goalless.
There was however an element of fortune to the goal which gave the west Africans’ the advantage after the break.
A long clearance pumped upfield by the Malian defence was misread by Teunckens, and with the bounce deceiving the goalkeeper, Maiga nipped in to nod home.
The win was rubber-stamped in the closing stages as Koita, the youngest player on either side, showed composure beyond his years.
He received the ball in the Belgian penalty area on the right-hand side and slammed a finish across Teunckens into the far corner.
Mali’s historic victory means they will face Nigeria, who later emerged victors of the second semi-final match against Mexico, on Sunday.
NAN reports that Belgium will face Mexico in the play-off for third-place earlier the same day in Vina Del Mar.(NAN)