World

Spain down Mali to set up England showdown

Spain down Mali to set up England showdown

But Mali could not find the goals they needed and Spain progressed to the showpiece.

Mali like to play a fast-paced attacking game and have been prolific in this tournament, scoring 15 goals in five matches, conceding six times. To rub more salt to the wounded of Mali came the third goal from Spain, once again following an attack from the wing as a high cross from the left by Gomez was headed in by an unmarked Ferran Torres.

African giants Mali lined up in a 4-1-4-1 formation as they locked horns with European champions Spain, who opted for a 4-2-3-1 shape. After several attempts on goal from both teams, Gelabert was fouled in the box when his deft turn drew a foul from Abdoulaye Diaby to give Spain a penalty. The goal was not given, and Spain went on to make it 3-0 to add to Mali's misery. The followup header was not on target and Spain restarted its attack.

Spains win was marred with controversy when Mali midfielder Chieck Doucoure's powerful long-range shot found its way past Spanish goalkeeper Alvaro Fernandez but the referee failed to call the goal despite the ball clearly crossing over the line.

The game was end to end from the get-go with both teams going agonisingly close to taking the lead within the first 10 minutes.

Spain's first clear cut-chance came with skipper Abel Ruiz using his strength to get to the sideline and float a risky cross into the box that deflected into the path of Sergio Gomez. Ruiz beat Koita with a right-footer, as the goalkeeper dived the other way.

His third made him the tournament's top scorer with seven as he became only the second Englishman ever to get a hat-trick against Brazil - the first being Steven Gerrard's cousin Bobby Duncan.

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Spain was happy to soak Mali's pressure and in the 33rd minute nearly doubled its tally on the counter when Ruiz's side-footed finish, capping off a slick move from the left flank, missed the right-hand post by a whisker.

Mali rallied, but Cheick Doucoure's fine strike was not given even though replays showed it had crossed the line.

But the ball seemed to have bounced inside the goal before rebounding into play, with the assistant referee not signaling it in.

Walking off at half-time two goals in deficit, Mali came out firing.

Steve Cooper's youngsters now have a magnificent opportunity to write their name into the history books by becoming the first England team to lift the Under-17 World Cup.

Lassana Ndiaye cut the arrears a couple of minutes later but Jonas Komla's men were, despite considerable effort, unable to force another.


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