African champions Mali breezed into the knock-out rounds of the FIFA U-17 World Cup with a dominating 3-1 win over New Zealand in their final group game in New Delhi on Thursday.
Mali, the last edition’s runners-up, took the lead in the 18th minute through Salam Jiddou who struck a 25-yard stunner.
The first goal supplier Djemoussa Traore then turned scorer in the 50th minute as he curled in a right footer into New Zealand net from top of the box.
Lassana Ndiaye scored the third goal for Mali in the 82nd minute while Charles Spragg scored the consolation goal for New Zealand in the 72nd minute at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium.
Left winger Traore was a constant threat for the New Zealand defence throughout the match with his speed, ball control and deft footwork. He was supported well upfront by the likes of Jiddou, Mahamadou Samake and Hadji Drame.
Mali finished second in Group B with six points from two wins and booked a round of 16 berth. They had lost to Paraguay 2-3 in their campaign opener on 6 October in Mumbai before beating Turkey 3-0 in their previous match.
Paraguay topped the group with an all-win record. They beat Turkey 3-1 in Mumbai in the other Group B match today.
New Zealand and Turkey ended their group engagements with one point each and failed to advance to the round of 16.
The match, played in hot conditions, was dominated by Mali who had a ball possession of 61 percent. They fired as many as 36 shots at the goal out of which 10 were on target.
New Zealand, meanwhile, had just four shots out of which two were on target.
New Zealand got the first attempt at the goal in the minute but captain Max Mata could not give proper direction to his shot in one-on-one situation with the Mali goalkeeper Youssouf Koita. Mata, who returned today after sitting out in the previous match due to suspension, shot straight to the goalkeeper.
As the initial chance for New Zealand went begging, Mali gradually stamped their authority with Traore in the thick of action on many occasions.
In lone such lightening run down the left flank, Traore got the better of a defender and then sent a square pass to Jiddou who struck a powerful right footer from 25 yards to dump it to the New Zealand net.
Soon after, Jiddou could have scored his second goal of the match but he shot straight to the goalkeeper after being sent in the clear by Traore inside the New Zealand box.
The second half was also dominated by Mali and they just took five minutes from the breather to double the lead. This time Traore cutt in from the left and sent a curling right footer from the top of the box, beating a diving goalkeeper, to hit the net.
Mali were denied by the goalpost in the 65th minute as substitute Cheick Oumar Doucoure shot rebounded after thudding the woodwork.
Against the run of play, New Zealand pulled one back in the 72nd minute with second half substitute Charles Spragg heading into an open goal after Mali goalkeeper was beaten by a high cross from the left by Elijah Just.
Mali struck back and gave New Zealand no chance of a snatching a draw as the African side made it 3-1 in the 82nd minute Lassana Ndiaye.
(With inputs from PTI)