Mali, Morocco kick off FIFA U-17 World Cup with wins

* Doumbia hat-trick fires Mali to their win over Uzbekistan as Morocco see off Panama

* Mali were in control throughout against their overmatched Asian opponents in Group B

* Doumbia opened the scoring after 30 minutes, his second from the penalty spot on 72 minutes and completed his hat-trick three minutes later

Maravi Express

A Mamadou Doumbia hat-trick propelled Mali to an emphatic 3-0 victory over Uzbekistan while Morocco earned a hard-fought 2-0 victory over Panama in their opening matches of the FIFA U-17 World Cup on Friday.

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A report by CAFonline says Mali were in control throughout against their overmatched Asian opponents in Group B and Doumbia’s clinical treble ensured a dream start to Mali’s World Cup campaign.

He opened the scoring on 30 minutes after rounding Uzbek goalkeeper Muhammadyusuf Sobirov to slot home despite desperate defending on the line.

Doumbia doubled Mali’s advantage from the penalty spot on 72 minutes after Ibrahim Kanate was fouled in the area. The striker then completed his hat-trick three minutes later with an instinctive close-range finish and was named the Man of the Match following his heroics.

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Kanate was a constant threat with his pace and trickery out wide. Captain Ibrahim Diarra also impressed in midfield, hitting the post with a terrific solo effort.

Mali were well-drilled and cohesive, passing the ball crisply and carving out numerous chances. Uzbekistan battled hard but struggled to contain Doumbia and Kanate’s movement.

The Africans will be full of confidence heading into Monday’s clash with European powerhouses Spain as Uzbekistan will face an uphill task against Canada on the same day.

On this evidence, 2015 runners-up Mali have the quality to make another deep run at the U-17 World Cup. Doumbia’s clinical finishing could make the difference in tight knockout games.

Goals from Saifdine Chlaghmo and Ayman Ennair earned the Atlas Cubs of Morocco the three points in their Group A opener at the Gelora Bung Tomo Stadium.

Chlaghmo headed Morocco in front on 16 minutes, rising highest to convert Abdelhamid Maali’s deep corner past Panama goalkeeper Manuel Romero.

Morocco controlled the first half but Panama emerged rejuvenated after the break. The Central Americans nearly equalised on 60 minutes as Oldemar Castillo cut inside and curled just wide.

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Minutes later, Panama substitute Frederik Krug somehow side-footed over from six yards out following Hector Rios’ cutback, spurning his side’s best opportunity.

That miss proved costly as Morocco sealed victory in second-half stoppage time. Maali’s clipped ball found Ennair breaking through on goal to delicately lift the ball over Romero.

It was a deserved win for Morocco, who dominated possession and territory against a Panama team that competed well after their timid first half.

Man of the match honours went to tenacious Morocco midfielder Mohamed Hamony for his battling midfield display.

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Morocco next face hosts Indonesia on Monday, while Panama take on Ecuador later the same day.

After this opening win, the Atlas Cubs appear well positioned to progress from Group A if they can maintain this form.

Other African representatives at the FIFA U-17 World Cup are Mali, Burkina Faso and African-17 champions, Senegal. The four qualified for the World Cup after they qualified for the semifinals of the CAF U-17 Africa Cup of Nations in Algeria.

Mali

By winning the title, Senegal marked a significant milestone for the country’s international football status coming on the heels of senior team, Lions of Teranga’s 2021 AFCON title triumph — which they are set to defend in Côte d’Ivoire from January

The Senegal U-17 are drawn alongside Argentina, Poland and Japan in Group D and their intent is on bettering their performance they had at Brazil 2019, when they were eliminated in the Round of 16.

They face Argentina today, Poland on Tuesday (November 14) and Japan on November 17 in their second and consecutive FIFA U-17 World Cup™ appearance.

Senegal

In their debut edition, they qualified from the group stage thanks to impressive victories over USA and the Netherlands, before being eliminated in the Round of 16 by Spain.

They into the global competition as strong contenders to fly the African flag led by Amara Diouf, captain of the team and top goal scorer at the U17 AFCON, Algeria 2023, while the last line of defense is headlined by shot-stopper, Serigne Diouf.

The squad enjoyed good preparations in Turkey where they recorded two victories and a draw in local friendlies, will unfortunately will be without midfield star, Abdou Aziz Fall who is nursing an injury along with Diambars Traore.

The Lions of Teranga’s 2021 AFCON title triumph also marked as their first-ever AFCON title attained in Cameroun whey they won all matches except against Malawi in the group stages that ended 0-0.

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Senegal’s Under-20 also clinched their first-ever U-20 AFCON title when they beat their neighbours The Gambia 2-0 in March to country’s fairytale run in CAF competitions in a year.

The Under-17 also added more glory to their nation by winning the 2022 AFCON U-17 in Algeria that also earned them 3 additional accolades — Fair Play award, third Man of the Match (by teenage sensation Lamine Camara) and Best Goalkeeper Award(Pape Mamadou Sy).

Senegal are also AFCON Beach Soccer champions and will represent Africa at the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup UAE 2024™ grouped with  Colombia, Belarus and Japan in Group C.—Additional reporting by CAFonline 

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