Iraq face acid test against Mali in U-17 pre-quarterfinals
Margao: Last edition's runner-up Mali will enjoy an upperhand over a gutsy Iraq in a tricky pre- quarterfinal match of the FIFA U-17 World Cup, here on Tuesday.
Two-time champions Mali have had a good performance so far though they finished runners-up in Group B. They lost to eventual group toppers Paraguay in a narrow 2-3 result but came back strongly to win convincingly against Turkey (3-0) and New Zealand (3-1) to finish with six points.
The African side's speedy run down the flanks and stronger physique will pose a lot of threat for the Iraqi defence and it will be interesting to see how the Lions of Mesopotamia, who will be playing without their star player and captain Mohammed Dawood on Tuesday, counter the Mali attackers.
For Mali strikers Lassana Ndiaye and Djemoussa Traore have combined well upfront and have posed threats to their opponents' defence with their speedy runs but have been found wanting in front of the goal as they have wasted a lot of scoring chances. Attacking midfielder Salim Jidhou will keep the Mali offensive moves going along with Hadji Drame who look dangerous on either flank.
The biggest concern for Mali is their defence which was exposed by Paraguay and it is to be seen how the Iraqis take advantage in the absence of their star striker Mohammed Dawood. Iraq finished runners-up in Group F behind England. They have a reason to give an inspiring performance on Tuesday.