France under-20 2-1 Mali under-23: 10-man Eagles denied three points in thrilling affair

The hosts came from behind to claim a 2-1 victory on Tuesday evening, albeit not without their fair share of luck.

France under-20 2-1 Mali under-23: 10-man Eagles denied three points in thrilling affair
Those at the Stade Perruc, Hyères, were treated to a thriller. (Photo: Un Monde de Sport)
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France: (4-3-3): Escales; Niakhate, Diakhaby, Batubinsika, Confais (Salles 70'); Fulgini, Konate (Guirassy 41'), Kemen; Pereira De Sa (Bamba 59'), Mousset (Diallo 70'), Robinet.
Mali: (4-3-3): Dibatere; Sacko, Toure, A.Diaby, Diakite; Samassekou (Diaby 78'), Doumbia, Coulibaly; Diarra (Sambague 75'), Tianda, Niane (Baradji 75').
SCORE: 0-1, Niane 58'. 1-1, Robinet 71'. 2-1, Bamba 74'.
REFEREE: Radu Marian Petrescu (ROM). Booked: Coulibaly 28', Batubinsika 31', Pereira de Sa 40'+1, Coulibaly 43' (second yellow, sent off), Diarra 47', Diaby 54'.

France under-20 rode their luck for a 2-1 win over 10-man Mali on Tuesday evening, coming from behind to do so.

Despite the French coming into the game as overwhelming favourites, it was their opponents who edged the first half - one of few chances.

However, everything changed in the hosts' favour early in the second half, with a red card going the way of Lassana Coulibaly before France were awarded a penalty for a separate incident a few minutes later.

Nonetheless, half time substitute Sehrou Guirassy missed the target from 12 yards and just moments later, Mali were ahead. Adama Niane was the scorer, with his sublime lob rounding off a lovely move that put the 10 men in the lead.

It looked like it could last too but, seconds after being guilty of a big miss, Thomas Robinet stabbed in a close range equaliser to give France a glimmer of hope of grabbing the three points.

Mali's bad luck would return at the worse time too, with them hitting the bar right from the restart and then conceding a second after a huge deflection on Jonathan Bamba's long range strike.

They tried with all their might to get back into the affair, but it was just too late and instead they had to settle for nothing but positives at full time - France taking the points in their third successive win at this year's Toulon Tournament.

Mali the happier after goalless first half

This was expected to be far from a challenging test for a French side looking to go back to the top of Group B, against a Mali side who have shown little defence resilience during their campaign so far.

However, just a few days prior, the African nation had showed their attacking quality in a 3-3 draw with Mexico and so the hosts and favourites needed to be wary of the threat on the counter, with them expected to dominate the game.

The confident underdogs had some bright early moments in the final third that showcased the boost given to them by the draw too, but it was France who had hold of the game to start.

Moments after firing a powerful shot just wide from range, Brahim Konaté was the recipient of a huge early chance in the match, put through on goal by Angelo Fulgini. However, the Auxerre youngster was well thwarted by Malian goalkeeper Ousmane Dibatère, who stuck out a leg to save.

Bar this big opportunity though, there was nothing to separate the two. France lacked their usual creative spark - especially with their main attacking outlet Guirassy on the bench - while Mali were increasingly positive going forward.

Right before the break in fact, the visiting nation could have taken the lead. A lovely run along the byline from Coulibaly ended with his cut-back being deflected out to Nianankoro Doumbia on the edge of the box, but he took it first time, despite having time and space to control the ball, and fired a shot wildly off target.

On the balance of play as we neared half time, a lead for Mali probably wouldn't have been something the French could complain about either, with Fousseni Diawara certainly the happier coach at the interval.

Dramatic start to the second period gives France the edge...

However, everything changed within just a few second half minutes - Guirassy on for the French and Mali down to 10, with Coulibaly receiving a second yellow and, with it, his marching orders.

Before we'd even hit the 50 minute mark, we were dealt even more drama too as France were awarded a controversial penalty. Diarra was judged to have fouled Thomas Robinet just inside the area, though it looked like a 50-50 challenge in which the Frenchman had made first contact.

Yet, justice was seemingly done with the execution of the spot kick - Guirassy stepping up and firing it over the bar, squandering a massive opportunity.

...But Mali defy the odds 

After riding all of this bad luck, Mali came through fighting and they got the reward they deserved too when they took a surprising lead just before the hour - against all odds.

It was a truly delightful goal too. Diadie Samassékou's terrific first half flick put Niane through and he gave the build-up the finish it deserved, deliciously lobbing the onrushing Florian Escales to give his side the lead.

The task now was to hang on and keep their slim chances of qualification to a fifth match alive.

And then the bad luck strikes again

France applied the pressure as we entered the final stages though, and they had a golden opportunity to level the scores with just over 10 left to play.

It was Robinet threaded through on goal out of nothing, but Madigoundo Diakité did brilliantly to stick with the Sochaux youngster and put him under enough to pressure to see him fire wide as he bared down on goal.

However, the teenager would make amends for the huge miss, poking home an equaliser from the closest range possible after a determined drive along the byline from the substitute, Bamba.

And then the misfortune for the Malians came back.

Straight from the restart, a positive move by the visiting nation saw two attackers drive directly at a sea of blue shirts - the ball scooped over the back four for Niane to try his trick again, but for his attempted lob to this time hit the crossbar and bounce out for a goal-kick.

Then the good luck came for France. Desperately probing for a goal to give them the lead, they got it - Bamba trying his luck from range and seeing his attempt deflect off a defender, looping up and over the desperate dive of Dibatère.

This was a huge blow for the African nation, who couldn't recover as they saw a positive performance rewarded with nothing but that; positives.