African champions Mali will fancy their chances of sealing a knockout berth when they lock horns with New Zealand in their final group game of the FIFA U-17 World Cup here tomorrow. Mali will be high on confidence after their 3-0 drubbing of Turkey in their previous Group B game at the D Y Patil Stadium. They were keen to make a statement after their opening defeat to Paraguay and that they managed to do so, speaks about the character of the team. The 2015 edition finalist will be up against a spirited New Zealand side whose best performance in its seven outings remains reaching the pre-quaterfinals thrice. Though they lost 4-2 to Paraguay, New Zealand will take solace from the fighting spirit they showed against the South American giants. New Zealand, who drew 1-1 with Turkey, were playing without their regular skipper Max Mata, who missed their last match because of two yellow cards he received in their tournament opener. His coming back will bolster the side and lift its morale.
It was Mata who scored in the stalemate against Turkey, and he will again look to register his name in the score-sheet at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium. Leading by a goal in the half time against Paraguay, New Zealand's defence fell apart after the break, and this remains an area of concern. With the likes of Oliver Whyte and skipper Mata, the New Zealanders have a strong attack and their mid-fielders and defenders will have to ensure that the side gives a tough competition to their superior opponents. With a draw and a loss, New Zealand reached the capital with hopes of improving their record in the current edition of the tournament. The task that awaits them, however, is difficult. Having reached the title clash in 2015, the physically and tactically superior Africans are looking to go a step better this time around. The likes of strikers Lassana N'Diaye and Hadji Drame have been clicked upfront and they are expected to test the New Zealand defence.
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