Favoured French bow out while Mali dazzle again

THE DAY REPLAYED – Following in the footsteps of Brazil, Nigeria, Mexico and Belgium on Wednesday, Croatia, Mali, Ecuador and Costa Rica all advanced on Thursday, completing the quarter-final line-up of the FIFA U-17 World Cup Chile 2015.

While the Malians, Croatians and Ecuadorians all took charge of their Round-of-16 encounters early on and never looked back, Costa Rica emerged victorious from a war of attrition with previously free-scoring France.

Les Bleuets, one of the favourites for the tournament, struggled to break down the resilient Ticos defence in 90 minutes, and saw their hopes of adding a global crown to their European one evaporate in the ensuing shoot-out (0-0, 3-5 on penalties).

Ecuador ran out 4-1 winners over Russia, taking full advantage of the Europeans’ defensive lapses, while Croatia demonstrated the form they displayed against Nigeria during the group phase by completely negating Germany’s attack and finishing clinically at the other end for a fine 2-0 victory.

Elsewhere, Mali made light work of Korea DPR (3-0), grabbing an early opener and controlling the rest of the match in an impressive and mature performance.

Results *Round of 16 *Croatia 2-0 Germany Mali 3-0 Korea DPR Russia 1-4 Ecuador France 0-0 Costa Rica (3-5 on penalties)

Goal of the day *Mali 1-0 Korea DPR, Amadou Haidara (8) Midfielder Amadou Haidara picked up a loose ball on the left-hand side, controlled it on his chest and took a couple of strides forward, before unleashing an unstoppable right-foot drive beyond the despairing dive of Ri Chol-Song. It was the perfect start for Les *Aiglonnets**, and a hammer blow from which the North Koreans would not recover.

Memorable moments *Speedy starts*: Mali’s early strike continues a good habit that the African side has formed over the past three matches. After missing countless golden chances against Belgium, they bounced back to notch the first goal of the game within the opening ten minutes of their two subsequent wins over Ecuador and Honduras.

German generosity: Defender Felix Passlack appeared distraught after Croatia’s second goal in stoppage time, one that effectively sealed the outcome of the match. Despite his disappointment, however, the German captain sought out Croatian attacker Josip Brekalo after the final whistle to congratulate him. “I just told him that he was a great player and that I wished him the best for the remainder of the tournament,” he told FIFA.com.

Heroes humbled: France’s big-name players were unable to prevent France’s defeat at the hands of Costa Rica. Luca Zidane, who had been the hero of Les Bleuets’ 2015 UEFA European Under-17 Championship semi-final shoot-out triumph over** Belgium, making three saves, could not get near any of the Central Americans’ well-placed efforts. As for French skipper Timothe Cognat, who had scored from the spot against Belgium five months before, he struck the ball over the bar to indirectly send Costa Rica through to the last eight.**

The stat 1995 – The year in which Ecuador put in their best performance in a FIFA-run tournament, when they reached the quarter-finals of the U-17 World Cup. This current generation will have an opportunity to set a new record and go one round better when they take on Mexico for a place in the semi-finals on Monday.

The words "I’m feeling great because this is the best time of my life," Dario Basic, Croatia coach

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Next matchday *Sunday 1 November *Brazil-Nigeria Croatia-Mali

Monday 2 November Ecuador-Mexico Belgium-Costa Rica