Goalkeeper Youssouf Koita was the hero for Mali on Wednesday as he safely guided Cup holders to their second consecutive final at the Total U-17 Africa Cup of Nations Gabon 2017 after a steeling 2-0 penalty shootout win against Guinea at Stade l’Amitie in Libreville- to set up the cup final match against Ghana on Sunday.
In the other semi-final match earlier decided at Stade de Port Gentil, the Black Starlets eased through after a nervy 6-5 penalty shootout win over the Le Mena Cadets of Niger but the drama in Libreville was more riveting after both sides played out an energetic goalless draw in regulation time.
In the resultant penalty shootout, the Le Syli Cadets lost all their four kicks including three saves by Koita while his compatriots Hadji Drame and Fode Konate scores to take Mali yet to another final following their success in Niamey two years ago where they beat South Africa 2-0 in the final.
On Sunday, Mali will duel against Ghana for the trophy while Guinea face off with Niger in the match for third place with both matches taking place at the Stade de l’Amitie in Libreville.
Total Man of the Match: Youssouf Koita (Goalkeeper, Mali)
Jonas Kokou Komla (Head Coach, Mali)
I dedicate this win to the people of Mali. I hope it brings peace to the communities in Mali. The football administrators also deserve to enjoy the share of this moment. They have done a lot to make sure this team comes here. We were even not sure that we would play in this tournament but they did all they could to make sure that the team comes for the tournament.
Guinea played a bit of a physical game but I instructed my players to remain strong during the match or else they give Guinea the chance to play the final. The mindset of the players was right as they really wanted to beat Guinea in this match. We shall plan well for Ghana and we are sure it will be an interesting match. We are now thinking about winning the cup.
Souleymane Camara (Head Coach, Guinea)
I congratulate Mali for winning the match. My players did a fantastic job as they followed every bit of the instructions as you could see we were playing attacking football from start to end. However, Mali was not a simple team. They had planned well for us but the fans must have enjoyed this match because all sets of players played well. It is unfortunate that we have again lost to the same team at this stage but we shall go back and place. Right now, we need to make sure we plan for the most immediate task which is the FIFA U-17 World cup in India.
Youssouf Koita (Mali Goalkeeper, Mali)
We are so happy. You could see the reactions from our fans in the stands. I am so sure that this win has made so many Malians happy. We followed the coach’s instructions during the game and our tactics worked out. I will show this award to my entire family when I go back home to Mali. However, we are ready for Ghana in the final’
Source: Confederation Africaine de Football