By Eric Yaw Donkoh

Mali showcased yet another Champaign performance at the ongoing 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup on Thursday as the African champions walloped New Zealand 3-1 at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in New Delhi, India to book a Round of 16 qualification berth.

The dominant Eaglets did not look back despite losing 2-3 to the eventual winners of Group B [Paraguay] in their first match of the competition, winning two straight games on the road.

Mali rocked the bar on two occasions before finding the back of the net in the 18th minute through playmaker Salam Jiddou’s wicked, but scintillating drive which pass muster as one of the best goals of the competition.

Djemoussa Traore, who provided the assist in Salam Jiddou’s pretty looking goal extended the lead for the African champions in the 50th minute as he dribbled his way into the goal area before curling one beyond the reach of New Zealand goalie – Jones.

New Zealand pulled one back in the 73rd minute through substitute Charles Spragg’s free header assisted by Elijah’s sumptuous cross into the second post.

Salam [No. 10] receiving hand shake from his colleagues for his pretty-looking goal
Salam [No. 10] receiving hand shake from his colleagues for his pretty-looking goal
Lassana N’Diaye closed the lid on the New Zealand coffin in the 83rd minute as he pushed home Fode Konate’s low cross into the eighteen yard box. Lassana’s goal marked his third straight goal in the competition.

The 2015 runners-up [Mali] became the first African team to qualify to the Round of 16 phase.

Below are the starting line-ups;

Mali: Koita, Haidara, Djemoussa, Fofana, Konate, Camara, Drame, Samake, Kane, Salam, N’Daiye.

New Zealand: Jones, Moore, Rogerson, Cacace, Van Den Hoven, Just, Mata, Conroy, Sinclair, Palmer, Wellsmore.

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