Mali booked their spot in the knockout stages with a dominant 3-1 win over New Zealand in a Group B match of the FIFA U-17 World Cup here on Thursday.
Salam Jiddou gave Mali the lead with a powerful shot from outside the penalty box in the 18th minute while Djemoussa Traore (50th) doubled the lead just after the restart.
New Zealand scored against the run of play in the 72nd minute when Charles Spragg headed an accurate cross to the second post by Elijah Just.
Lassana N’Diaye (82nd) however, made the issue safe for Mali when he utilised some poor marking to slot home a pass by Konate.
Both teams needed a win in order to ensure second spot in the group and the Africa U-17 champions did so with aplomb.
They ended the group stage with six points from three matches and advanced from the group along with Paraguay.
Mali dominated right from the start and the Kiwis were lucky to get away by conceding just two goals.
The combination of Mali centre forward Salam Jiddou and Djemoussa Traore was too much to handle for the New Zealand defence.
Traore was superb down the wings while Salam was dangerous whenever he received the ball.
The duo received excellent support from Fode Konate and Mali captain Mohamed Camara.
The Africans could have won by a bigger margin but Traore hit the post just before the break while Konate’s effort from outside the Kiwi penalty box bounced off the underside of the bar in the 66th minute.
The Mali defence was also well organised and did not allow too much space to the Kiwi forwards.