Spain deny Mali another World Cup final

Mali's Lassana N'Diaye

A penalty and a great finish by Abel Ruiz saw Spain getting the edge over a physical Mali side. The Africans played exciting, attacking football throughout their campaign and Wednesday's match was no different.

But Mali too are flying and their figures are staggering: the highest number of goals, the highest number of assists, three players in the top 10 of the tournament's leading scorers, most shots on goal, most shots on target, most shots that hit the woodwork. Mali became the first side to retain the Africa U-17 Cup of Nations this year, beating Ghana in the final.

He might be one of the brightest youngsters in global football but Spanish striker and skipper Abel Ruiz is not thinking too far ahead and said now he just wants to focus on the final against England in the FIFA U-17 World Cup.“I am concentrating now only on the final game against England and not on anything else, ” said the FC Barcelona junior player after scoring a brace in Spains dominant 3-1 semifinal victory over African U-17 champions Mali here last night.

Abel Ruiz (19th, 43rd minutes) struck twice for Spain before half-time while Ferran Torres (71st) got the third goal.

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It was heartbreak for Mali as they crashed out despite playing impressive football. Mali stuck to its game plan of taking shots from outside the box while Spain was happy to press on the counter.

In the semi-finals played today, while Spain beat Mali 3-1 in Navi Mumbai, England upset three-time champions Brazil by the same margin in Kolkata. The goal was not given, and Spain went on to make it 3-0 to add to Mali's misery. His volley was spectacularly saved by 'keeper Youssouf Koita. After several attempts on goal from both teams, Gelabert was fouled in the box when his deft turn drew a foul from Abdoulaye Diaby to give Spain a penalty.

César Gelabert was the creator of Spain's first two goals.

The goal was his fifth of the tournament for the African champions.

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