Mali, Senegal advance to Under-20 AFCON final

Mali will play Senegal in Sunday’s final of the Under-20 Africa Cup of Nations in Niger, in a repeat of the opening Group B encounter.

Mali needed penalties to beat Nigeria after a 1-1 draw to book their place in the final, while Senegal beat South Africa 1-0 in the other semi-final.

Senegal’s coach Youssouph Dabo says the final will not be a repeat of the group encounter which his side won 2-0.

“Facing the Mali be a different match because it is a final,” he insisted.

“We beat them in the first game but I said it after that game that they can go far, so I am not surprised to see them in the final.”

Dabo’s side progressed to the final thanks to an own goal from South Africa defender Givemore Khupe with 20 minutes left to play.

Khupe turned the ball into his own net from an Ousseynou Niang cross after he had beaten Keenan Phillips on the left.

South Africa’s coach Thabo Senong, who is at his third Under-20 Nations Cup finals, is already looking ahead to May’s World Cup in Poland.

“As far as the World Cup is concerned I can say that we have enough time to prepare for it,” he said after the match.

“Playing against Nigeria is another opportunity for us to face opponents of another calibre and be the start of our preparation for the world.

“We will do our best since we play every game to win it.”

It took penalties to separate Mali and Nigeria after the game ended in a 1-1 stalemate after extra time.

Nigeria’s Paschal Durugbor equalized four minutes from time to cancel out Mamadou Traore’s 77 minute goal for Mali.

Both sides failed to score their opening penalties first Valentine Ozornwafor missed for Nigeria and then Mali’s Boubacar Traore had his effort saved while

Aniekeme Okon missed Nigeria’s fifth penalty to allow El Bilal Toure to win it for Mali as he sent the keeper the wrong way with neat right footed strike.

Mali coach Mamoutou Kane admitted the semi-final had taken its toll on his team.

“It was a very exhausting match in the head and in the belly,” he explained.

“Luck was with us so congratulations and courage to the Nigerian coach.

“This is football and I could not express my joy like the others because for me what was to be celebrated is the match against Ghana (which saw the team qualify for the World Cup.”

The Nigeria coach Paul Osahon Aigbogun said there was little to choose between the two sides.

“It was a very difficult match against Mali and we fought as it should but unfortunately for us Mali won,” he said.

“We congratulate the Malian team for their victory and qualification. Today we cannot say that something has not worked since the two teams were equal.”

The final between Mali and Senegal is set for Sunday in Niamey while South Africa will face Nigeria in the third-place play off a day earlier.

All four teams have qualified for the Under-20 World Cup in Poland in May.