Under-17s bow out of World Cup
New Zealand's involvement in the FIFA U-17 World Cup is over after a 3-1 loss to African champions Mali.
The Danny Hay-coached side started the match in New Delhi knowing exactly what was required to give themselves any chance of progressing past the group stages but were unable to get near what was neede
Having drawn 1-1 with Turkey and lost 4-2 loss to Paraguay in their first two matches, New Zealand needed a comprehensive win to progress, something that always looked difficult against one of the tournament favourites.
While Hay finally had a full squad to pick from, including Max Mata who returned from suspension, they were unable to get near Mali.
Not for the first time in the tournament New Zealand found themselves a goal behind early on despite the Oceania champions having the first chance to score.
However, Mali goalkeeper Youssouf Koita produced a good low save and it was his counterpart Zac Jones, starting his first game, who came under the most pressure.
He came up with some good saves but was unable to deny Mali in the 18th minute though, a ball being laid off into the path of Salam Jiddou for him to score one of the goals of the tournament so far by rifling a strike into the top corner from well outside the box.
Mali continued to enjoy more of the ball and doubled their advantage in the 51st minute before Charles Spragg gave New Zealand some late hope before they conceded again in the 82nd minute to put the game beyond reach.
"We were in a very, very tough group and were more than aware of that," Hay said.
"We played against three very good sides and our attitude, application and the quality of football was at times I think better than it ever has been from a New Zealand under-17 side. I can't fault us, we were just up against some very good teams."
"Mali are African champions for a reason and came into the tournament as one of the favourites. You can see the quality there and they're going to go a long way because they're a very good side."
Mali 3 (Salam Jiddou 18', Djemoussa Traore 51', Lassana Ndiaye 82') New Zealand 1 (Charles Spragg 72'). HT: 1-0.