Les Aigles of Mali are through to only their second FIFA U20 World Cup quarterfinal after stunning Ghana 3-0 in an all-African clash at the Wellington Regional Stadium, New Zealand.
Three top-drawer strikes from Diadie Samassekou, Dieudonne Gbakle and Aboubacar Doumbia proved decisive as Mali knocked out the 2009 winners.
Ghana, winners in 2009 and second runners up in the 2013 U-20 World Cup edition, went into the match as favorites, having topped Group B – which had record winners Argentina – unbeaten. Mali on the other side had only advanced to the knockout out stage as one of the best third-placed teams.
The Black Satellites had also claimed a comfortable 3-1 win over Mali when the duo met in a third-place playoff at the Africa U-20 Championships in March this year.
However, the Malians looked like they won’t be bullied from the off. Lawrence Ati had been forced to pull a fine save from Mali’s Souleymane Diara before Samassekou opened his account in the competition.
With 20 minutes on the clock, Mali launched another raid into the Ghanaian backline. Sassamekou exchanged some neat passes with Adama Traore before the former let loose a left-footed strike that sunk into the far corner with Ati beaten in Satellites goal.
Ghana crafted their own chances thereafter but were unable to get behind Digui Diarra as the half ended 1-0 in favor of the 1999 second runners up.
It took Moussa Keita’s men 8 minutes into the second half to double their lead. Gbakle, for the umpteenth time, danced his way past his markers on the right wing before unleashing a curling effort that got in off the underside of the bar and make it 2-0. Gbakle was then denied by Ati from close range as Ghana struggled to keep Mali at bay.
The increasingly inevitable third goal finally arrived, Doumbia completing a trio of breathtaking goals by chipping delicately past Ati just 10 minutes before the final whistle as Les Aigles claimed a hugely deserved 3-0 win and a spot in the quarters.
They will face Nigeria or Germany.
In another match, Ibrahima Sy saved three penalties as Senegal edged Ukraine 3-1 in post match penalties. The duo were leveled 1-1 at the end of extra time, Artem Biesiedin’s opener for the Europeans having been cancelled by a Sidy Sarr equalizer towards the death. Senegal will face Uzbekistan or Austria in the quarters.
Hungarian Attila Talaber scored an own goal at the end of extra time to hand 1987 champions Serbia a 2-1 win and a quarterfinal clash against USA. Bence Mervo had given Hungary the lead after 57 minutes but Partizan Belgrade forward Ivan Saponjic found the equalizer just before the final whistle.
USA beat Colombia 1-0 thanks to a Rubio Rubin strike.