The semi-finals of the FIFA U-17 World Cup Chile 2015 are set to serve up two mouth-watering duels on Thursday, between teams that have scores to settle with each other.

In the first match, Mali and Belgium will lock horns for the second time in the competition, although this time the rewards are much greater than the three points that were available during the group stage.

Although it may seem like an age since the two teams played out an exciting, albeit goalless draw on 18 October – the second day of the tournament – in what was the opening game of Group D, it does provide some pointers to what may happen in La Serena, where fans are likely to witness a distinct clash of styles.

In the later encounter, Mexico and Nigeria go head-to-head in a repeat of the final last time around, at UAE 2013, where the Africans secured a resounding 3-0 victory to claim their fourth U-17 World Cup crown, more than any other nation. Both teams were highly fancied to emerge victorious from Chile 2015, but only one will have the opportunity to prove those predictions correct.

Match of the day
Mali-Belgium (La Serena, 17.00)

While the Malians and Belgians have already crossed paths in Chile, the circumstances are significantly different to what they were almost three weeks ago. Les Aiglonnets completely dominated the group-phase fixture, and only failed to pick up all three points due to profligate finishing.

Since then, however, they have seemingly solved that problem, scoring a healthy 2.25 goals per match, while continuing to display considerable defensive fortitude – indeed, they have now gone 290 minutes without conceding.

Belgium, meanwhile, no longer have the look of the team that barely managed two attempts on goal – neither of which found the target – versus Mali. Having improved the tactical side of their game beyond recognition, they have become a dogged unit that excels at closing down space.

Although Les Diablotins have found the net just five times at the tournament, three of those strikes have come in the knockout stage, during which they are also yet to concede a goal.

The other match
Mexico-Nigeria (Concepcion, 20.00)

Ever since the Final Draw for Chile 2015 mapped out the route to glory, Mexico and Nigeria have been well aware that they might meet in the last four. With the exception of a defeat by a talented Croatian side in their final Group A match, after qualification had already been achieved, the Africans have exhibited sensational form.

Playing a style founded on relentless attacking play, the Golden Eaglets are spearheaded by the prolific Victor Osimhen, who has notched eight goals so far and is one of seven players who have contributed to the team’s overall tally of 17, which equates to an impressive average of 3.4 goals per match.

That said, Mexico already have experience of negating free-scoring opponents in this competition, having seen off Germany, who came into their group match with a record of eight goals in two games. In addition, El Tri are able to boast the second-best defence of the four semi-finalists, with just two goals conceded. Like their opponents, they have been able to share the goals around, with seven players contributing a total of ten successful strikes.

Player to watch
Dante Rigo (Belgium)

The young PSV Eindhoven midfielder has not only brought discipline and balance to Belgium’s starting XI, but he has also contributed well-executed set pieces and pivotal goals. Against the disciplined Malians, Rigo could provide the key to unlocking an extremely tight defence.

The stat
– The win percentage that both Nigeria and Mexico possess at the semi-final stage of the U-17 World Cup. While the Africans have advanced to the final seven times out of seven, the CONCACAF representatives have achieved the same feat three times out of three. Obviously, one of those successful runs will come to an end on Thursday.

The words
“I’ll be honest, our appetite has only grown as the tournament has progressed. And so our target is now to lift the trophy. Winning is the best way to learn, and it will also encourage the fans and football authorities back in Mali to stick with this policy of blooding young players, so that we can perhaps one day win the senior World Cup,” Baye Ba, Mali coach.

Match schedule
Semi-finals, 5 November (all times local)
Mali-Belgium (La Serena, 17.00)
Mexico-Nigeria (Concepcion, 20.00)