Mali stunned the hotly-tipped Paraguayans after three minutes, when a long ball left the Paraguayan defence in a host of trouble. Spurning two chances to clear it, Adama Niane took advantage to fire past a stunned Diego Morel.
They were only ahead for four minutes though, with Jorge Rojas settling the frayed nerves of the 2013 South American Youth Championship runners-up. Mali's defence were thrown after a cross was drilled along the edge of their area, with Rojas chesting the ball down and firing into the bottom left corner.
The Cerro Porteno wide-man looked a constant threat in the early stages, cutting inside, running at defenders and keen to cross into the box whenever he could.
The best chances for the CONMEBOL side came when the ball was swung in high, but the game's initial punch slowly ebbed away and a more scrappy affair was left.
While it was Paraguay who were shaky at the back in the first period, Mali gifted their opponents a chance at the start of the second. A short corner routine saw the ball launched into the area, but indecision in defence allowed the ball to drop to Brian Montenegro, but he shot wastefully over.
The game continued with few chances but, midway through the half, Mali keeper Germain Berthe had to spring into life to keep them level. Derlis Gonzalez took the ball down and hit a fine shot on the turn, which Berthe saved superbly. It was not long before the pair sparred again, with Berthe still coming out on top as Gonzalez shot from the right.
Gustavo Gomez then saw sight of goal, heading wide from a corner as chances slowly began to go the way of the South Americans, with Claudio Correa lashing over soon after in a promising position. With time ticking away Correa headed wide from a whipped Juan Villmayor free-kick, and their chances at three points evaporated.