Second-half strikes from Cedric Bakambu and Alexandre Lacazette secured a 2-0 victory for France over Mali in Cali to book their place in the Round of 16 and simultaneously send the African’s packing.
Mali controlled possession for the first quarter of an hour, but after a quickfire series of chances for Ibrahima Diallo and Adama Toure, France eased into the match and finally found the breakthrough they needed in the second half.
Despite overwhelming crowd support going Mali’s way in Cali, France were the more dangerous on attack. On 13 minutes, Antoine Griezmann dribbled past two defenders to find Gael KaKuta in the box, but the forward’s proceeding shot was blocked.
Griezmann, searching to break the deadlock, fired a fierce low-drive, but Mali goalkeeper Cheick Abdul Cadry Sy was able to pull off a brilliant save. At the other end, Mali bundled two free-kick chances.
France then had a flurry of opportunities to take the lead before the break. Bakambu received an overhead pass from the defence, and while he was all alone in the area, saw his shot denied by the Mali No1. The forward was begging for a goal, but would be left searching for an answer at half-time, when his next shot from the centre of the area was easily handled by Sy.
Les Bleuets came out firing in the second half, certainly hungry for a place in the Round of 16. Mali defender Amara Konate was given his marching orders for a second caution on 69 minutes, and it did not take long after that for France to finally find the back of the net.
Substitutes Clement Grenier and Alexandre Lacazette provided the spark, as they combined just above the area before Lacazette tapped a square ball to Bakambu. The No17 coolly struck the ball home at the far post, to send France well on their way to victory.
On 77 minutes, Lacazette turned from provider to scorer after receiving a pass from Grenier. From a tight angle, Lacazette slotted past Sy to double France’s lead. Mali had two long-range chances from Diarra and Toure, but Ligali had no trouble making the saves. Lacazette almost scored twice more, but a 2-0 advantage was all France needed to advance into the knockout round alongside Group A opponents Colombia..