U-17 WC PREVIEW – Nigeria vs Mali
Nigeria and Mali will contest an all-African Under-17 World Cup final for the first time in 22 years when they meet at Estadio Sausalito.
Two teams from the African continent will go head to head in the final for the first time since Ghana and Nigeria met in the 1993 final.
Nigeria are already the most successful team on this stage and will be gunning to become only the second team to defend their title since Brazil did in 1999.
Standing in their way are a resilient Mali side who made their intentions clear by thumping Belgium 3-1 in their semi-final. Mali are the defending CAF champions in this age bracket and will be looking to go one further with the ultimate title.
Both sides came from behind in their respective semi-final to make it here, and both sides made sure that their attacking intent never dropped even after taking the lead. If the both sides play their usual style, we are surely in for a cracker.
Tonight’s game will mark the first time any Malian side has reached a final of a FIFA event, with their Under-20 side’s third place finish this year coming the closest. On the other hand, Nigeria has a lot of experience in these showdowns.
Nigeria will start has strong favourites after clear dominance in this year’s tournament after racking in 21 goals in their favour with the tournament average being just six.
However, Mali have just conceded two goals in the tournament, boasting the best defence in the competition. It’s easy to say the two most deserving teams are in the final.
Ones to watch
Victor Osimhen – Arguably the player of the tournament, the striker has scored in all nine matches equalling a record tally of nine goals in the tournament.
Kelechi Nwakali – The Eaglets captain had a great game in midfield in the semi-final scoring his third goal of the tournament. With three assists to his name, his creative play will be crucial if Nigeria want to break the strong Malian defence.
Sidiki Maiga – Mali’s top scorer with three goals including one in the semi-final , the 16-year-old will have to be at his game if Mali have to go one better to lift the trophy.
Abdoul Dante – The leader of the Mali side and the backbone of the team. Dante at centre back has had a great tournament, his leadership and defensive qualities will have to be at its best to hold out a firing Nigerian side.