Spain's Under-17s are 90 minutes away from making historia. Santi Denia's pupils made shiort work of this afternoon's U17 World Cup semi-final against Mali and will battle it out with England on Saturday for the only major trophy which is missing from their honours list. La Rojita outmuscled Mali with surprising authority - resolving a duel which even the most optimistic commentators had their doubts about. The Africans were the big favourites to go onto win the trophy and were only beaten through personality and talent.
Abel Ruiz opens from the spot
Jonas Komla's Mali started with a high pressing game and intent on taking control. Yet it was La Rojita who had the first chance on goal. On two minutes, following a fine individual move from Abel Ruiz, the ball fell to Sergio Gómez, whose shot was miraculously saved by Youssouf Koita. That chance was enough to sow doubt into the minds of the Africans, who dropped deeper as a result. Mali managed to stave off Spain's attacks until the 18th minute when César Gelabert raced onto a Ferrán Torres pass and was tripped in the box. A penalty was awarded and Abel Ruiz stepped up to send the keeper the wrong way.
Spain double the lead before half-time
It was the breakthrough Spain needed and their confidence soared. Moments before half-time, Gelabert, one of the promising starts of Real Madrid's youth academy, released Abel with a killer threaded pass to leave the Barça clean through to finish low inside the post.
Denia's Spain side continued as they had left off after the break but were let off the hook when a Cheick Oumar Doucoure strike was disallowed even though replays showed it had clearly gone over the line. It was perhaps the biggest injustice of the tournament and had it been given, could have changed the course of the game.
Ferrán Torres met Sergio Gómez's raking centre with a downward header at the far post to make it 0-3 and put the game beyond Mali but Lassana N'Diaye pulled a consolation goal back, beating Álvaro Fernández at his near post with a quarter of an hour to go. In spite of that disallowed Mali goal, Spain booked their place in Saturday's final on their own merits and will have another crack at the trophy which eluded them in 1991, 2003 and 2007.