Starlets secure an all-African quarter-finals clash with Mali


Skipper Eric Aiyah's flawless kick from the penalty spot in injury time of the first half coupled with another splendid strike by substitute Richard Danso in the final moments of the match sealed two-time champions Ghana's place in the quarter-final of the Federation Internationale de Football Association U-17 World Cup with a 2-0 win over debutants Niger yesterday. The two-time U-17 champion side from Africa, slated to meet Mali next for a place in the semifinal, may not be in a position to dance again, going by the forwards' performance against Niger. "We created a lot of chances, which we couldn't convert. We need to work on the final result", he added. They have been beaten by European champions Spain (4-0) and South American champions Brazil (2- 0) and have made it to the Round-of-16 only by beating North Korea 1-0 and finishing third in the group with three points. They will now take on Mali in the quarterfinal in a rematch of their African Cup of Nations final.

Eric Ayiah opened the scoring from the penalty spot in first-half stoppage time in the western Indian city. We will keep correcting such mistakes till we get what we want. Ghana scored both the goals when clock was running out. Not to forget the 86th minute penalty denied to captain Ayiah when Niger goalkeeper Khaled Lawali read his choice of a low kick to his left.

"When Africans play each other, we know each other so well and therefore it's very hard. From here on, we are expecting better, but we have already accomplished big things", Tiemoko said, explaining the defeat. But before that, Niger resisted nearly everything that was thrown at them. "When we have a match of equal footing, it will be unfair to say one person made the difference. We will prepare to beat them and play just like we'd play any other opponent", a confident Fabin said.

"For us it is a historic qualification", Niger coach Ismaila Tiemoko said after the game.