Mali reached their first ever Fifa Under-17 World Cup final courtesy of a resounding come-from-behind 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 thanks to a sumptuous through ball by Jorn Vancamp. The No 19 found space in between the Malian midfield and defence and lofted a pass with the outside of his right foot to the onrushing Rigo. The midfielder showed great composure to finish for his second goal in two games, and end Mali’s run of over 300 minutes without conceding at Chile 2015.
The Malians struck back swiftly. Aly Malle matched 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, after their meeting in their opening Group D fixture.
There was an element of fortune to the goal that gave the Africans’ the advantage after the break. A long clearance pumped upfield by the Malian defence was misread by Teunckens, the bounce deceiving the Belgian ‘keeper. Maiga nipped in to nod home with the Club Brugge stopper stranded.
The win was rubberstamped 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 the victor of the second semifinal between Mexico and Nigeria on Sunday, with Belgium facing the defeated side in the play-off for third place earlier the same day in Vina Del Mar.