FIFA U17 World Cup: Treacherous conditions the main talking point as Mali overcome Ghana 2-1 to reach semis
A rain-soaked African derby on a wet outfield was on display for the fans in Guwahati. The first quarterfinal of the FIFA U17 World Cup ended with Mali beating Ghana 2-1 in what was a dull affair to be honest. The weather and pitch conditions didn't help the game too, as the rain and strong winds made it difficult to play long balls accurately the wet outfield made it difficult to play swift football on the ground and both teams resorted to the physical aspects to win the game which was evident in the form of nearly 60 fouls being committed during the game.
Apart from a few missed chances, a disallowed goal, and a couple of goals the game didn't really have much to talk about as most of the noise was about the pitch and weather conditions.
“I wanted the game to be abandoned due to the conditions but the match officials came and had a look at the pitch and decided that the game should be played so we played,” Ghana coach Samuel Fabin took a rueful stock of the conditions in which the match was played. He went on to add that: “I have never seen such conditions nor have my team ever played in conditions like these, and playing football was hard for us in such conditions.”
The Mali coach Jonas Komla, however, didn't have any complains regarding the weather and mentioned: “The weather made it difficult to play good football and everyone suffered due to this and even the fans suffered but well we have played in similar conditions before in Ethiopia and in Mali, and in a World Cup you have to be prepared for any situation.”
The Ghana team looked out of ideas and were playing the same long balls into the channels and were hoping for a breakthrough, while the Mali coach said that he and his team had watched Ghana’s previous matches' videos and prepared accordingly to deal with the Black Starlets' long ball threat. He also stressed the importance of keeping their shape and not committing fouls in these conditions.
“The team that made the lesser amount of mistakes won the game,” conceded Komla as he summed up the game.
Fabin also had doubts regarding some of the refereeing decisions made during the game, especially the disallowed goal when the referee blew his whistle late, while the players were celebrating. “I never complain about officiating decisions but I have doubts with today’s referee decision, he blew his whistle a lot later after the goal was scored, that too when the players were celebrating and stated that it was a foul, we didn't understand in which part was the foul committed, had the decision been in our favour and the goal allowed the game would have been different."
The situation which the Ghana coach had doubts about happened in the 40th minute when Mali were 1-0 up and Ghana thought they had scored through Ibrahim Sulley who finished a lovely cross but the goal was disallowed citing a foul by Kudus Mohammed on Ibrahim Kane. It looked like a 50-50 challenge where both the players jumped high to get the ball but neither could reach it and the ball fell sweetly for Sulley who made no mistake to finish it off. The team were celebrating when the referee blew his whistle to disallow the goal.
Mali star Salam Jiddou said they had faced similar conditions in Mali, Ethiopia and Ivory Coast and even in Mumbai where they played two matches in rainy conditions so it was not difficult to adjust and acclimatising wasn’t a problem for him and his teammates. He said now the team's focus is on the semi-final and he has the belief that they could win the FIFA U17 World Cup after falling at the final hurdle in 2015.