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Last edition's runner-up Mali will enjoy an upperhand over a gutsy Iraq in a tricky pre- quarterfinal match of the FIFA U-17 World Cup, here tomorrow.
Two-time champions Mali have had a good performance so far though they finished runners-up in Group B. They lost to eventual group toppers Paraguay in a narrow 2-3 result but came back strongly to win convincingly against Turkey (3-0) and New Zealand (3-1) to finish with six points.
The African side's speedy run down the flanks and stronger physique will pose a lot of threat for the Iraqi defence and it will be interesting to see how the Lions of Mesopotamia, who will be playing without their star player and captain Mohammed Dawood tomorrow, counter the Mali attackers.
For Mali strikers Lassana Ndiaye and Djemoussa Traore have combined well upfront and have posed threats to their opponents' defence with their speedy runs but have been found wanting in front of the goal as they have wasted a lot of scoring chances.
Attacking midfielder Salim Jidhou will keep the Mali offensive moves going along with Hadji Drame who look dangerous on either flank.
The biggest concern for Mali is their defence which was exposed by Paraguay and it is to be seen how the Iraqis take advantage in the absence of their star striker Mohammed Dawood.
Iraq finished runners-up in Group F behind England. They drew their first match against Mexico 1-1, then came up with a top class performance to beat Chile 3-0 before losing to England 0-4 to finish on four points.
It was a disappointing match for the Asian champions against England as they were not only drubbed 0-4 but also lost captain Mohammed Dawood for tomorrow's match after he received a yellow card in the 62nd minute, his second in the tournament.
Dawood has been the inspiration in the attack and was the leading scorer for his side with three goals and his absence will surely be felt tomorrow.
Iraq have returned to the place where they played last year to win the Asian U-16 Championships. They have been good only on patches and their coach Qahtan Chathir would be hoping that his boys give their best tomorrow.
They have a reason to give an inspiring performance tomorrow as this has been their first ever knock-out stage qualification in this tournament. Iraq have featured in the FIFA U-17 World Cup only once earlier, at UAE 2013. That experience was not particularly memorable as they finished last in their group losing all their three matches.
Mali: Alkalifa Coulibaly, Boubacar Haidara, Djemoussa Traore, Fode Konate, Mamadi Fofana, Mohamed Camara, Hadji Drame, Abdoulaye Dabo, Seme Camara, Salam Giddou, Mamadou Traore, Mahamane Toure, Soumaila Doumbia, Siaka Sidibe, Abdoulaye Diaby, Youssouf Koita, Mamadou Samake, Ibrahiim Kane, Lassana Ndiayne, Cheick Oumar Doucoure, Massire Gassama.
Iraq: Ali Ibadi, Mustafa Zuhair, Abdulazeez Ammar; Ammar Mohammed, Maytham Jabbar, Muntadher Mohammed, Muntadher Abdulsada, Abdulabbas Ayad, Mohammed Al-Baqer, Ali Raad; Habeeb Mohammed, Saif Khalid, Mohammed Ridha, Abbas Ali, Bassam Shakir, Mohammed Ali (Al Nagda), Moamel Karim, Ahmed Sartip; Mohammed Dawood, Ali Kareem, Alaa.
Match starts at 8pm.
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