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MALI

FIFA Under-20 World Cup title favourites, Germany suffered a shocking 3-4 penalty-kick defeat against Mali on Sunday as the West African minnows booked a sensational semi-finals berth. The Germans which eliminated Nigeria’s Flying Eagles in the round of 16 were tipped to advance to the semi-finals at the expense of the Junior Eagles of Mali, but it turned out to be a different ball game at the Christchurch Stadium, New Zealand.

Julian Brandt’s opener had put the Germans ahead in the 38 minutes before Souleymane Coulibaly’s 58th minute header drew Mali level, with both sides failing to hit the target during the regulation and extra time.

Both sides scored their first three penalties, before Mali’s Adama Traore had his penalty saved and Julian Brandt, who had scored Germany’s goal in normal time, blasted his shot over. Mali then made it 4-3 and with Niklas Stark needing to score to keep Germany in the shootout, he fired the crucial shot wide to send Mali into the semi-finals.

An elated coach Fanyeri Diarra praised his boys for proving their mettle against the European champions in such crucial manner.  “We said we would show Christchurch a great game and we did it. Germany is a big nation at this level and we know we were not the favourites, but we fought the battle until the end. There are always surprises in these tournaments and we are one of them. Now we are ready to face whatever comes next,” he declared.

African Youth Championship runners-up, Senegal also booked their semi final berth after beating Uzbekistan 1-0. A Mamazdou Thiam’s 77th minute goal was all that the West African team needed to edge past their Central Asian opponent in Wellington. South American soccer giant, Brazil also saw off Portugal 3-1 in a penalty shootout after a goalless duration to seal a top four place while Serbia edged out USA 6-5 in a similar dramatic penalty shootout following a scoreless draw.

The finalists would be decided on Wednesday, June 17 when Senegal squares up against Brazil in Christchurch by 16.00 hours while Mali and Serbia fight for the other ticket in Auckland by 19.30 hours.

By Olisemeka Obeche

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