ANGELA ASANTE / AIPS Young Reporters* / BAKU: Kadidiatou Diani stole the show with a goal in each half as France reached their first final of the FIFA U-17 women’s World Cup with a 2-0 victory over Ghana at the 8KM Stadium here.

Africa’s hopes were effectively ended when Jane Ayieyam was sent off in the 52nd minute for her second yellow card. France will play North Korea in the tournament showdown on Saturday.

France  who dominated much of the first half. Midfielder Ghoutia Karchouni fired the first shot on goal after nine minutes as the game was mainly played in Ghana’s half. In reply, Dramani’s girls showed aggressiveness in counter-attack.

However, it was the Europeans who came closest to scoring when skipper Sandie Toletti executed a header from close range in the 18th minute. Ayieyam got the better of France’s defence a minute later as Aissatou Kantara struggled to keep up with the striker’s speed and  Sherifatu Sumaila shot wide.

The end-to-end action was far from taking a pause. Diani almost put one past goalkeeper Victoria Agyei whose fingertip punch saved the day for Ghana after 20 minutes. The Sumaila-Ayieyam combination nearly pierced the French five minutes later. Romane Bruneau, in post, was fortunate to have Ayieyam forward directing her low drive just across the face of goal.

The Black Maidens’ defence broke down in the 30th minute when  well-placed header gave France the lead.

In an attempt to get back in the game, coach Mas-Ud Dramani played Ahialey as a lone striker while Sumaila and Ayieyam dropped back on the right and left wing respectively.

But the Ghanaians’ hopes of an equalizer were frustrated with the sending off of Ayieyam seven minutes after the break and Diani rounded up the win for France in the 89th minute on the counter-attack. Her fourth goal in five matches  condemned Ghana to the third place play-off.

France coach Guy Ferrier could not hide his elation, saying: “We played a very good game today, though we were scared of Ghana’s No7 (Sherifatu Sumaila) and No9 (Alberta Ahialey) but our players re-organized to deal with them.”

Ghana’s Mas-Ud Dramani did not dispute the outcome, saying: “It was a highly contested game but were a better side so they deserved to win.”

Dramani says reaching the semi-final was a feat in itself for Ghanawho had never previously gone beyond the quarter-final stage in any FIFA women’s competition.

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** AIPS, the international sports media association, is running a Young Reporters course at the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup with the co-operation of FIFA and supported by the Azeri Ministry of Youth & Sport

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