Zambia is the first African team to qualify for the 2017 FIFA World Cup, making full use of home advantage by winning its first two games at the 2017 U-20 Africa Cup of Nations. Beating Guinea 1-0 was a worthy result, but the 6-1 trouncing handed to Mali was an eye-opener.
The Mali U-20s in this tournament are descended from the 2015 U-17 squad that won the 2015 African U-17 Championship, and was the runner-up at the 2015 U-17 World Cup. But the talented Malians were run over by a Zambia side urged on by a loud and increasingly happy home crowd.
Mali opened the scoring in the 5th minute, and enjoyed three minutes of the ascendancy in the match before Zambia equalized. The floodgates opened with Emmanuel Banda's sensational go-ahead goal in the 25th minute. Another home-team goal followed before half time, and three more came in a 15-minute spree in the second half. By the 66th minute, Zambia had a 6-1 lead and the result of the match was beyond doubt.
The loss does not eliminate Mali. In the other game in this group, Egypt and Guinea tied, 1-1. Mali plays Guinea in its final game of the group stage. To make the semifinals of this tournament, and the U-20 World Cup, Mali must win and hope Zambia beats Egypt in its group-stage finale.
Former New York Red Bulls II player Zoumana Simpara didn't get on the field for Mali's humiliation against Zambia - which he might count as a small mercy. He has yet to play in this tournament, and the game against Guinea could be his last chance to register an appearance for his U-20 national team.
Per our friends at livesoccertv.com, here's where to find the game if watching from the USA: