Mali successfully defended the Under-17 Africa Cup of Nations title with a 1-0 victory over Ghana in Libreville, Gabon, on Sunday night.
The Aiglonnets, who nearly missed participating in the competition due to a Fifa ban on the West Africans a few months ago, proved the better side and overpowered their Ghanaian opponents.
Mamadou Samake scored the only goal in the 22nd minute of the thrilling finale to see Mali join the elite group of nations to win the prestigious tournament twice – Ghana, Nigeria and Gambia complete the category.
The Black Starlets failed to produce the form that saw them score nine goals in their opening two games at the tournament and were hugely undone by poor tackling decisions.
Ghana conceded two penalties in the first half hour of the game – both were well-saved by goalkeeper Ibrahim Danlad but the first penalty was not completely put out of danger.
The Ghana defence failed to react quickly to Danlad’s save which could not be put to safety, allowing Samake to quickly follow up and sweep the ball underneath the body of the shot-stopper for the goal.
John Otu and Razak Yusif were penalised for late tackles that saw Ghana give away two penalties.
Gabriel Leveh came close to equalising for the Starlets close to the end of the first half, but goalkeeper Youssouf Koita tipped over the sublime free-kick effort.
Mali largely dominated the midfield and had their fullbacks cause a lot of trouble for the Ghanaians with marauding runs on the flanks.
Both Ghana and Mali as well as Guinea, who defeated Niger in the third place, fill Africa’s four slots for the Fifa World Cup to be hosted by India in October.