Mali were forced to settle for a 1-1 draw in their U20 World Cup opener against Paraguay
Mali played to a 1-1 draw against Paraguay on Saturday in the Group D second match at the Kamil Ocak Stadium in Gaziantep in the ongoing 2013 World Youth Championship in Turkey.
The junior Eagles saw their early lead from Adama Niane quickly cancelled out by Jorge Rojas, as both sides would struggle in vain for a double for the rest of the encounter.
Mali poured forth at the blast of the whistle, spreading to both flanks in a bid to disorganise the Paraguayan defence, in a sharp and pacy build up that culminated in a last ditch effort which Adama Niane successfully concluded in the back net to put the Africans ahead three minutes from kick off.
Paraguay captain Gustavo Gomez and playmaker Derlis Gonzalez quickly pulled the team together to overcome the early shock, by conserving the ball and setting their midfield, with the Malians watching and making sure no opposing man got behind them.
Jorge Rojas was set up to the right edge of the Malian box and after outrunning his marker, behaved as if he wanted to lay for his onrushing mates but unleashed his effort outright which found goalkeeper Germain Berthe sprawling in vain, to even the scoreline at 1-1 in the 7th minute.
Paraguay took control of the session thereafter but fluffed countless chances to claim the lead, with the Eagles standing up to the challenge at the back, thanks in part to keeper Berthe, who foiled a number of attempts from the south American duo Angel Lucena and Matias Perez.
Near end of first half Mali retook domination, with Issaka Samake and Adama Mariko’s combined efforts tearing apart the back half of Paraguay, who were struggling to get a foothold in the game.
Both teams returned from the break with the score still standing at 1-1, as their coaches made changes to especially sharpen the attacking line, which had failed to find focus.
A corner kick by Perez found Rojas unmarked in the Malian box but instead of poking into the left post just to his side, chose to lay back for onrushing Arnaldo Sanabria, who scuffed his shot past the far post.
Mali also screwed a number of clear cut chances in second half, with the most visible from captain Boubacar Diarra, who met a left-wing cross with a flashing header which the Paraguayan goalkeeper Diego Morrel gathered well.
Both sides had their attempts blocked in quick succession all through the rest of the second half, with Mali dominating play towards end of the meeting as the Paraguayans evinced signs of fatigue.
The score puts Mali second in Group D with 1 point behind leaders Greece (3pts), who defeated Mexico earlier, while Paraguay are third with 1 pt.
Mali will play Mexico next on Tuesday June 25 at the same venue.