The two sides follow completely different philosophies when it comes to football, which makes their clash even tighter and the competitive nature of both teams will ensure that the match goes right down to the wire.
Most eyes may be directed towards the mouth-watering semi-final of Brazil vs England on Saturday, but the other one at the DY Patil Stadium, Navi Mumbai sees two dominant sides in Spain and Mail go head to head in what, assuringly, is an intense match-up.
Spain dominated Iran in the quarter-finals where they played their best football yet to oust the Asian heavyweights 3-1, while Mali just edged out Ghana in what was a physical match in Guwahati. The African giants will look to book their place for their second consecutive FIFA U-17 World Cup final by taking a different approach against Spain, who have dazzled with their fast-passing, slick game-play in the U-17 World Cup so far and will look to stop La Roja from getting into their groove in this crucial encounter.
The FIFA U-17 World Cup has now moved into its business end as none of the two teams will back down without giving a gritty fight on Wednesday, as we take a look at the preview for this enticing encounter.
Spain should be going with the same team that defeated Iran 3-1 in the Quarter-Finals, with La Roja looking really strong with their current composition. The European giants will be playing without the services of Jose Lara, who is unavailable for the match after receiving his 2nd yellow card of the FIFA U-17 World Cup. Santi will look to stick with the game-play which helped Spain roll through against Iran but will need to get his players ready for the physical battle against the Africans.
Full Highlights: Spain 3-1 Iran
Mali did oust Ghana in the Quarter-Finals, but they lost a big man for the semis as their captain Mohamed Camara is going to miss the match after getting the second yellow card in the win against Ghana. He will be replaced by either Siaka Sidibe or Cheick Doucoure in the middle of the park as Mali will need to win the midfield battle if they are to stop Spain from playing their natural game. It’ll be a difficult game without their captain, but Mali will look to prove why they are one of the best U-17 teams in the tournament by ousting one of the favourites.
HEAD TO HEAD
The teams have only met once at the U-17 level so far, with Spain getting the victory in their last encounter.
MAN TO WATCH
Spain- Sergio Gomez
The Spanish attacking midfielder has had a great tournament so far and turned up when it mattered for La Roja, scoring a crucial goal to seal the semi-finals berth in the last match against Iran. The La Masia youth product is a difficult man to keep track of because of his movements in the middle and to the flanks throughout the game, as his stunning eye for goal makes him a real threat for any opposition.
Mali will need to work a plan to contain him because Gomez can definitely run riot if he gets enough space in midfield and is allowed to play his natural game which can be vital towards a Spanish triumph at Navi Mumbai.
MAN TO WATCH
Mali- Djemoussa Traore
For Mali, the number one thing will be to try and shut down Spain’s fluid game in midfield and for that their midfielders will need to step up and stay close to the opposition midfielders to intercept balls and put in proper tackles.
Full Highlights: Mali vs Ghana
With Camara set to miss the match, Djemoussa Traore will need to take control of midfield for the Eagles and marshal his troops properly for them to contain the Spanish side. Traore was hero for Mali when he scored the last minute winner against Ghana in the Quarter-Finals and will need to give another heroic performance in the middle of the park, where he’ll have to be strong and positive in order to break down the Spanish midfielders.
Spain XI: Fernandez, Jaume, Miranda, Guillamon, Chust, Blanco, Moukhliss, Torres, Gomez, Gelabert, Ruiz.
Mail XI: Koita, Haidara, Konate, Diaby, Kane, Samake, Traore, Sidibe, Jiddou, Ndiaye, Drame.
The match will be telecast live on Sony Ten 2 and Sony Ten 3 at 20:00 hrs IST.