FIFA U-17 World Cup: Familiarity with pitch will give us the edge, says Mali coachOctober 25, 2017
African champions Mali, who take on three-time European champions Spain in the semifinal of the FIFA U-17 World Cup at the DY Patil Stadium on Wednesday, have already played a couple of matches here. And according to Mali coach Jonas Komla, their familiarity with the pitch will serve as a slight advantage against Spain.
“Yes, we know the pitch very well. But you never know because it is a semifinal against Spain. But we have a little advantage of knowing the pitch,” said Komla.
Mali had played their first two games of the tournament here. The first was a 3-2 defeat at the hands Paraguay, the other a 3-0 drubbing of Turkey.
Another factor that has worked in favour of the Africans is that they are accustomed to playing in such varied conditions. Three of Mali’s five games en route the semifinal were played in rain including the two games here.
Thus, in the case of a sudden downpour on Wednesday they might be able to adapt better. “In Mali, we are habituated to play in wet conditions, so nothing changes. We are prepared for anything that happens tomorrow,” said Komla, who has reasons to be confident especially after his boys pulled off their quarterfinal win over Ghana in heavy downpour which at times hampered the movement of the ball.
Mali also benefited from an extra day’s break as compared to Spain who beat Iran in Kochi on Sunday.
“The players are feeling better after the match. The doctor and the physiotherapists are working on them, but players are all ready for tomorrow,” Komla said on his team’s recovery after the grueling encounter in Guwahati.
Spain, on the other hand, have been restricted to Kochi in terms of travel. They played out their group stage matches at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi where they also returned for the quarterfinal after ousting France in the Round of 16 in Guwahati.