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FIFA U-17 World Cup

Belgium hold off profligate Mali


Belgium and Mali played out an entertaining goalless draw in Talca, in which the African's attacking prowess and flair was contained admirably by a sturdy Belgian defence. 15-year-old Sekou Koita was the standout player, and he went the closest with a first-half effort that crashed against the woodwork.

Koita lit up the early stages of the game, with his close control and trickery confounding the European side's defence. Midway through the opening period he danced through the Belgian defence, hit a cross-cum-shot, and it was poked in by Boubacar Traore – but the assistant referee’s flag denied the Malians

After Amadou Haidara went close by fizzing a long range drive wide of Jens Teunckens' left-hand post, Koita delivered another moment of magic. A thunderous drive of his own crashed back off the corner of post and crossbar.

Traore was next to go close, heading over after Sidiki Maiga had done well to control and cross a high ball.

Mali's dominance continued after the interval, with Traore once more in a good position, this time after Abdoul Dante had nodded on a deep set-piece, but the No11 could only help the ball over the crossbar.

The best chance of the second half came Aly Malle's way. The electric Koita slipped in Mali's No9, who went one-on-one with Teunckens, but his shot skewed wide and into the side netting.

The Malians will look to work on their profligate finishing in the coming days before they face Ecuador on Wednesday, while Belgium face Ecuador earlier the same day.

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