A 3-1 win over Mali lined up a rerun of the UEFA European Under-17 Championship climax as Spain triumphed to book a date with England in the FIFA U-17 World Cup final.
Two goals from Abel Ruiz, and another courtesy of Ferran Torres, in Navi Mumbai on Wednesday were enough to prevent the African champions from reaching back-to-back finals.
Spain started the brighter but were kept honest by a counter-attacking Mali, who saw Lassana N’Diaye clip the outside of the post inside the first ten minutes. However, the European champions were given an opening they did not spurn as captain Ruiz converted from the penalty spot after Cesar Gelabert was felled.
Mali were not cowed, pressing Spain and playing on the front foot, though this ultimately brought about La Rojita’s second. Gelabert again was the instigator, feeding Ruiz with a superb pass to see the No9 slot round the keeper from 20 yards.
Mali were far from beaten, though, playing with energy and positivity. They came desperately close to halving the deficit when Cheick Oumar Doucoure rattled the bar, but a slick move at the other end saw Ruiz and Sergio Gomez combine before Ferran home.
Hope glimmered for Mali when N’Diaye slotted home smartly with 15 minutes to go, but Spain held firm to reach the tournament finale.