Battle of contrasting styles as Spain clash against Mali
Navi Mumbai: A battle of contrasting styles of football will be on view when classical Spain crosses swords with a robust Mali in the semifinal of the FIFA U17 World Cup on Wednesday.
The semi-final contest at the D Y Patil Stadium is expected to produce top-drawer football with Euro U17 champions Spain adopting their Tiki-Taka (short-passing) style of play in trying to overcome the free-flowing and attacking manner of play by African champions Mali.
Both the teams have progressed to the last eight after losing their opening games, Spain to another top title- favourite and South American champions Brazil and Mali to another Latin American outfit, Paraguay, respectively.
While Spain have played mostly in the southern coastal city of Kochi, Mali have a slight advantage of having played at the D Y Patil Stadium in two Group B games before travelling out and returning to the same venue in under a fortnight s time. How much of an advantage the familiarity of the playing surface will be for Mali will be known tomorrow with one small difference from their stay and play earlier on the rains have gone away.
In both of Mali s previous games here, rains had made the ground wet and even in the quarter finals against fellow- Africans Ghana they had to brave a soggy field in Guwahati to sail through.
Three-time Euro U17 champions Spain will be confronted by the hard-tackling Africans who also play at a fast pace and the outcome will be determined by which team lasts longer in the trying conditions although the game has an 8 pm start.
After losing to the stylish Brazilians, who too have advanced to the semis, Spain have not put a foot wrong. After brushing off the challenge from Niger and DPR Korea comfortably, the Spaniards had a tough game against fellow- Euro outfit France at Guwahati and won on the back of a penalty goal by their lead scorer Abel Ruiz. Striker Ruiz has scored four goals in the competition, including the first in the 3-1 victory over Iran in the quarters, and will certainly be tightly marked by Mali s defenders. La Rojita have another ebullient forward in Sergio Gomez and the deep Mali defense will have their hands full in keeping him and Ruiz at bay. Mali have a top goal-tender in Youssouf Koita to give the defenders before him a lot of confidence.
Mali, the 2015 finalists, too have an enterprising forward in Lassana N Diaye who has pumped in five goals out of the 15 they have scored in the competition so far.