Navi Mumbai: African champions Mali would look to start their FIFA U-17 World Cup campaign on a winning note when they take on Paraguay in a Group B match on Friday.
Mali are the runners-up side in the last edition of the U-17 World Cup in 2015 and this time they would be aiming to move one step ahead by clinching the title. In the the 2015 final in Chile, they were beaten by Nigeria 0-2.
Mali have a strong squad, with good attack and defence, and they are one of the dark horses who could go all the distance in the U-17 showpiece event. For Paraguay, this will be their fourth appearance in the FIFA U-17 World Cup. Their debut, and best result to date, came at New Zealand 1999, where they finished fifth.
However, they failed to progress beyond the group stage in their two subsequent appearances, at Trinidad and Tobago 2001 and Chile 2015. This time, they would want to better their last edition performance and for it tomorrow's game becomes crucial.
Paraguay secured their World Cup berth thanks to their third-placed finish at this year's South American U-17 Championship. Both the teams did not have any practice games and will hit the ground tomorrow evening under the floodlights at the D Y Patil stadium.
While Paraguay landed in the megapolis a bit early, Mali arrived late, with just four days left for the tournament.Paraguay have some strong players, with their defence as well as attack equally good.
The two teams will also have to factor in humidity as playing in the evening could be an issue. Paraguay had practised in late nights before arriving for the World Cup and this could be an advantage to them.
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.
Paraguay: Diego Huesca, Jesus Rolon, Roberto Fernandez, Pedro Alvarez, Alexis Duarte, Braian Ojeda, Antonio Galeano, Stevens Gomez, Fernando Romero, Julio Baez, Leonardo Sanchez, Angel Roa, Marcelo Rolon, Victor Villasanti, Luis Zarate, Anibal Vega, Fernando Cardozo, Blas Armoa, Jonathan Martinez, Giovanni Bogado, Alan Rodriguez....