Mali has won its first-ever African soccer title.
The landlocked West African country shut out South Africa 2-0 in the continent’s 11th Under-17 boys’ championship in Niger.
The 1997 runner-up, Mali ensured there wasn’t a repeat of their group match encounter with South Africa, which rebounded from a two-goal deficit to tie the match and earn a draw.
On their way to the final, Mali also beat Cameroon 3-1, Ivory Coast 1-0 and Guinea 2-1. The South Africans reached the final with a 2-2 draw over Ivory Coast, a 3-1 victory over Cameroon and a 1-0 win over Niger.
In the playoff for third place, Guinea beat Nigeria 3-1.
Mali, South Africa, Guinea and Nigeria will be Africa’s representatives at the International Soccer Federation (FIFA) Under-17 World Cup in Chile in October.
In the Confederation of North, Central American & Caribbean Associations of Soccer (CONCACAF) qualifier in Honduras, Canada recorded an impressive 3-1 win over Haiti in its opening match.
The Canadians, who fell behind after their opponents opened the scoring in the 32nd minute, dominated the match with 21 shots on goal as opposed to seven by Haiti.
“With this new format, I think it’s critical that we get three points in our first game,” said head coach, Sean Fleming. “I give Haiti a lot of credit. I liked some of the things our players did and being the first game, there are some things we have to get better at but, overall, I’m quite pleased with the start to the tournament.
“The teams are quality (in this group) and I think having players with confidence can only help. I was happy with how our players came through the 90 minutes physically. But we know there’s a lot of work ahead. We’ve seen Costa Rica. We know they’re a very good side and we’re going to have to be at our very best in our preparation to have a game with them.”
In the new format of two six-team groups, the group winner will compete in the tournament final and the second and third-place teams crossover with the other group to meet for the final World Cup berths.
Canada is in the same group with five-time and defending champions Mexico, 1994 winners Costa Rica and 2013 runner-up Panama.
The three English-speaking Caribbean countries in the 12-team competition lost their opening matches.
Host country Honduras shut out Jamaica 2-0, Trinidad & Tobago lost 4-1 to Guatemala and Costa Rica overwhelmed St. Lucia 4-0.