OGUN, Nigeria (VOICE OF NAIJA)- France defeated Mali 2-1 after a thrilling second quarter in which they scored twice to secure a spot in the FIFA U-17 World Cup Indonesia 2023 final.
Mali had the better start of the two teams and twice within the first ten minutes forced Paul Argney into action. With a superb sprawling save, the France goalkeeper denied captain Ibrahim Diarra. Shortly after, he made headlines once more by stopping Ibrahim Kanate.
Mali would eventually break the deadlock in the fourth minute of first-half stoppage time – becoming the first team to score against France in more than 500 minutes of U-17 World Cup football in the process, when Diarra tapped home after Argney flapped at a Barry cross from the left.
The game would, though, be turned on its head inside just 60 seconds shortly after the restart. First, a high challenge by Mali defender Souleymane Sanogo earned him a straight red card following an on-field review. Then, from the resulting free-kick, Ismail Bouneb found the head of Yvann Titi, who made no mistake in glancing the ball home.
France would complete the comeback just 13 minutes later. Bouneb stood over another free-kick, but this time found himself in shooting range, and converted superbly, whipping the ball low to the goalkeeper’s left and into the bottom corner.
The ten men of Mali, to their credit, continue to push and came within a whisker of equalising in the dying moments. Hamidou Makalou fired a rocket of a free-kick towards goal, but Argney was again defiant, and touched the ball on to the crossbar.
France will now face Germany in the final on Saturday, while Mali will take on Argentina in Friday’s match for third place.