The Eaglets of Mali were crowned the continent’s U-17 champions after beating Amajimbos 2-0 in an exciting final as the curtain on Africa’s junior football showpiece was drawn to a elegant close at the Stade General Seyni Kountche in Niamey.
Siaka Bagayoko headed home on 67 minutes to give the Eaglets the lead in an evenly balanced between affair that saw a goalless first – half.
South Africa pushed forward with frequent attacks but the Mali goalkeeper Alou Traore was not so much perturbed by the efforts of Eric Mayo and Luvuyo Mkatshana.
Aly Malle – Man of the Match doubled the Eaglets lead in the 78th minute when he skillfully beat two defenders before putting a curling shot beyond the reach of Keeper Mondli Mpoto from a Boubacar Traore pass.
Further efforts from Maiga and Malle were contained by keeper Mpoto as did his Malian counterpart when Mayo, Nelson Maluleke and Ntuthuko Mbatha tried some fine inter-play passes to try and pull one back.
The Amajimbos were in the final for the first time while Mali were runners-up in 1997 in Botswana after a 1-0 defeat at the hands of the junior Pharaohs. South Africa’s best ever finish was a fourth place in 2005 in The Gambia where they lost the third place playoff match to Cote d’Ivoire.
A scintillating final and perfect end to what has been a “hugely successful and spectacular show” of Africa’s rising stars who together with Nigeria and Guinea will represent our Continent in the FIFA U – 17 World Cup in Chile in October.
By: Jammeh E.K. Bojang