…As Sweden sink Canada to set up Germany FIFA WWC Clash***
Newcomers Mauritania were given an unpleasant welcome to their debut AFCON appearance as they lost to West African neighbours Mali 4-1 in their Group E game Monday night in Suez.
Mali now lead the group with three points, two more than Tunisia and Angola who played to a 1-1 draw earlier at the same venue, while Mauritania follow in that order with no point.
Mali Eagles were the better side from the start to the end, and capped a convincing performance with an important win that saw them move closer to the next round.
Abdoulaye Diaby and Moussa Marega each scored within a span of eight minutes, and Adama Noss Traore added a third just after the break.
Haven Al Ide scored from the penalty kick spot to give Mauritania a historic goal.
But Adama Traore added the fourth for Les Aigles to hand Les Mourabitoune defeat in their first ever AFCON match.
Boosted by their debut, Mauritania started the game in a speedy way but without threatening their opponents’ defence.
The game’s first chance came after five minutes when a miscommunication between Mali’s goalkeeper Djigui Diarra could have cost his team an own goal.
But the ball was cleared for a corner kick.
Mali’s first chance fell to Diaby whose shot from outside the area missed the goal by a slim margin after nine minutes.
Adams Traore tried to shoot from distance at the quarter hour mark but he saw his shot going wide.
Once again Diaby tried his luck from outside area and found the same fate after 22 minutes.
But Diaby was third time lucky after 38 minutes when his shot from outside the area left Mauritania goalkeeper Souleymane Diallo with no chance.
And just before the break, Mali were two up.
Diablo fouled Lassan Coulibaly inside the vital area leaving the referee with no option but to give Mali a penalty kick, from which Marega doubled the Eagles lead.
Meanwhile, Sweden’s Stina Blackstenius struck in the second half on Monday in Paris as they won 1-0 against Canada at the FIFA Women’s World Cup to set up a quarter-final against Germany.
But it was a day of misfortune for the North Americans, who missed a penalty kick in the Round of 16 Match.
In sweltering conditions at the Parc des Princes, the two teams struggled to register any shots on target in the first half in spite of Canada dominating possession.
That all changed after the break when the Swedes stepped up a level and they were finally rewarded in the 55th minute when the Canadians lost possession of the ball in midfield.
Kosovare Asllani played an inch-perfect diagonal ball to striker Blackstenius, who prodded the ball past onrushing goalkeeper Stephanie Labbe.
It was her first goal of the tournament and it freed the Swedish team, which almost added a second with a thunderous drive from Fridolina Rolfo in the 61st minute.
Canada had a chance to get back into the game after 68 minutes, when they were awarded a penalty kick following a lengthy VAR review ruling that Asllani had handled the ball.
However, veteran Sweden goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl dived to her right to tip Janine Beckie’s spot kick away.
“If they doubted I could make any penalty saves, that proved them wrong,” Lindahl told reporters. “I had to stretch fully and it worked. It was pure joy. We got a lot more energy because of that.”
The save appeared to suck the spirit out of the Canadians who struggled to create much beyond a few half chances.
Asslani almost scored for Sweden five minutes from time as she volleyed in from a corner kick, but her shot was cleared off the line.
It was the first time Canada had failed to score in a World Cup knockout match and coach Kenneth Heiner-Moller said his young squad would learn from the experience.
“We have a lot of players with a bright future. They didn’t get their chance, but it’s given them a thicker skin. The way we develop players is important. We have the third youngest squad. So, it’s looking bright,” he said.
Sweden will now face two-times champions Germany on Saturday in Rennes in a repeat of the 2003 final.
The Swedes have not beaten the Germans since 1995.