U17 World Cup: Mali banking on 'positive pressure' ahead of Iraq clash

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The 2015 runners-up of the U17 World Cup face the 2016 AFC U16 Champions in the Round of 16

The head coach of the U17 Mali national team Jonas Kokou Komla hopes that their recent success will influence their performance in the U17 World Cup.

Mali have come to India on the back of two U17 African Cup of Nations titles in 2015 and 2017 besides finishing runners-up to Nigeria in the 2015 edition of the U17 World Cup that was held in Chile.

"The fact that we (Mali) did so well in Chile and also because we are the African champions, it's a possitive pressure on the team. It influences our work in a positive sense. Our ambitions are still the same," said the coach on the eve of facing Iraq. 

"I'm expecting a great match. From now on it's all or nothing. Both teams fully deserve to be here in the Round of 16. We respect Iraq but we wish to win tomorrow (Tuesday)," he added.

Mali defeated Turkey (3-0) and New Zealand (3-1) to make it through from the group stage where they lost 3-2 to Paraguay. Meanwhile, Iraq are in the Round of 16 on the virtue of their 3-0 win over Chile and a 1-1 draw against Mexico, but lost out 4-0 against England.

Mohammed Dawood was initially benched against England in Iraq's last game of the group stage as he was already carrying a yellow card from a previous fixture. However, Dawood was brought on in the second half where the striker eventually picked his second booking and thus suspended for the Mali clash.

Iraq U17 Mexico U17

"Unfortunately for Iraq, Dawood is not available for tomorrow but this doesn't change the philosophy of my team. Iraq are a very strong team with or without Dawood," Komla maintained.

On the other hand, Iraq head coach Qahtan Chitheer Darin Al-Rubaye responded to the situation saying, "Our team is playing as a group. Mohammed (Dawood) is a very important player but he is a member of the whole group. We have good players who can replace Mohammed."

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"We (Iraq) will change our tactics in a way we play better game than we did against England. I saw the Mali players at the hotel. They look physically bigger but we will do our bit to do well," the former Iraq international observed.

Should the game to into penalties, Qahtan commented, "Today is our first training session for tomorrow. As a coach, we have to expect anything but we will try to finish the match during regulation time."

The Round of 16 clash between the two teams will be played at the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium in Goa with a 20:00 IST kick-off.

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