Mali were beaten 3-1 by Spain in their 2017 U-17 World Cup semifinal at the DY Patil Stadium in Navi Mumbai on Wednesday.
The Young Eagles were outclassed by their Spanish counterparts, who were more clinical in attack and racked up three goals through a first-half brace from the excellent Abel Ruiz and a second-half header from Ferran Torres. Mali’s Lassana N’Diaye at least scored his sixth goal of the tournament to give his side some consolation.
Spain started strongly and nearly claimed the lead inside the first two minutes, with Sergio Gomez denied by a fine save from Youssouf Koita, before they had a strong appeal for a penalty turned down.
Yet the Europeans had to wait only until the 19th minute to open the scoring - and from a spot kick at that. Abdoulaye Diaby was guilty of a clumsy foul on Cesar Gelabert, and Abel Ruiz stroked home the penalty to make it 1-0.
Mali looked to be working their way back into the game as the first half entered its closing stage, but on 43 minutes the Africans gave the ball away in midfield and Gelabert played a superb pass to put Abel Ruiz in for his second goal of the game.
At 2-0 up, Spain entered the second half full of confidence and created a handful of chances to kill the game off, with Abel Ruiz guilty of missing a couple of glaring chances to complete his hat-trick.
There was controversy just past the hour mark when Cheick Doucoure struck a superb long-range shot which hit the underside of the crossbar, rebounded over the goal line and bounced back out into play.
Television replays confirmed that the ball crossed the line and Mali should have been on the score board, but the lack of goal line technology meant they were cruelly denied a way back into the game.
With just under 20 minutes to play, the Europeans found their third goal and ended the game as a contest. Sergio Gomez floated in a cross from the left by-line and Ferran Torres scored with a downward header for 3-0.
Mali gave themselves a glimmer of hope when Lassana N’Diaye took advantage of a slip at the back from Hugo Guillamon to score yet another goal at the World Cup and reduce the deficit to 3-1 in the 74th minute.
Yet there were no further goals for the West Africans, who were beaten 3-1 and have to settle for a spot in the third-place playoff against Brazil on Saturday. Spain will face England in an all-European final in Kolkata later the same day.
Mali (0) 1 (N’Diaye 74’)
Spain (2) 3 (Abel Ruiz 19’ pen 43’, Ferran Torres 71’)
Mali: Youssouf Koita, Boubacar Haidara, Djemoussa Traore (Mamadou Traore 69’), Fode Konate, Hadji Drame, Salam Jiddou, Abdoulaye Diaby (Mamadi Fofana 50’), Mamadou Samake, Ibrahim Kane, Lassana N'Diaye, Cheick Doucoure (Seme Camara 84’)
Spain: Alvaro Fernandez, Mateu Jaume, Juan Miranda, Hugo Guillamon, Victor Chust, Antonio Blanco, Ferran Torres (Victor Perea 79’), Mohamed Moukhliss (Diego Pampin 90’), Abel Ruiz, Sergio Gomez, Cesar Gelabert (Carlos Beitia 68’)