AFCON U-17: Mali down Congo to qualify for semis, book World Cup slot

Two-time champions Mali progressed to the semi-finals of the TotalEnergies U17 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) after seeing off Congo 3-0 in Annaba on Thursday.

The victory also assures Mali of a place at the FIFA World Cup, the third of four African countries to book their tickets.

Ange Tia, Mamadou Doumbia and Mohamoud Barry got the three goals for the Malian Eagles to hand them a place in the last four and a ticket to the global showpiece.

Tia got Mali infront after just eight minutes with a brilliant break into the box from a Doumbia through ball and a shot into the far left.

Mali was dominant from the word go and limited Congo’s movement upfront, pinning them into their own half. Doumbia almost made it 2-0 for Mali in the 26th minute with a shot on the half turn from the edge of the box, but it went just wide.

Five minutes later though, he made it 2-0 with a low finish after a defense splitting pass from Barry found him well placed.

In the second half, Mali continued with the same pressure and they thought to have had a third in the 53rd minute when Doumbia put skipper Ibrahim Diarra through, but his goal was ruled out for offside.

A minute later though, they were 3-0 up. Barry converted from the penalty spot after his initial cross was handled inside the box by Brad-Hamilton Mantsounga.

The goal improved Mali’s confidence and they played better, passing the ball around the pack with ease while Congo struggled to remain at pace.

They had more chances to score with skipper Diarra seeing a 65th minute shot from the edge of the box come off the post and his effort on the rebound over, while he also had another one on one effort blocked by the keeper.

Substitute Ibrahim Kanate also had a close chance in the 88th minute when he broke through on the right, but his shot rolled inches wide.

Congo were awarded a late penalty by the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) after Geltany Stalgout Bantsiele was brought down by Gaoussou Kone inside the box. Bantsiele took responsibility but keeper Bourama Kone made a brilliant save to keep his clean sheet record in the tournament intact.

Mali will now face off with Morocco in the semi-finals on Sunday in Constantine.

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