#FIFA U-17 World Cup

Supporting attacks from midfield

FIFA, 18 Nov 2023


Central midfielders with an all-round skillset are prized assets in football. These players possess the skill and creativity to pose attacking threat, and the tenacity and discipline to thrive in their defensive duties.

In Mali’s third and final group fixture of the FIFA U-17 World Cup Indonesia 2023™, Hamidou Makalou (3) showcased precisely why this type of player is so sought after. The Technical Study Group’s (TSG) Player of the Match scored in his side’s comprehensive 5-1 win over Canada, and was an integral part of Mali’s attack, despite operating as one of the defensive midfielders in a 4-2-3-1.   

Julio González, who was part of the TSG team that selected Makalou as Player of the Match, explains why the young Malian’s performance stood out from an attacking perspective:

“I like the ability he [Makalou] had to get near the penalty area and finish attacking plays. He enjoyed shooting on goal also. He is always providing his team-mates support in attack, and offers to receive the ball and take a shot on goal himself. For me, this is a good thing for a defensive midfielder to have and what I like most. Out of possession he has many qualities to defend and in possession he has the qualities to get into the penalty area and create goal-scoring opportunities.”

FIFA’s performance analysis metrics support González’s observations of Makalou being a key player in every phase of Mali’s attacks. The 17-year-old ranked second in the match for ball progressions with nine progressions , highlighting the player’s prominence in initiating attacking plays and carrying the ball forward for his team. When it came to progressing play through passing, Makalou was potently precise. The defensive midfielder completed all eight of his attempted line-breaking passes through the opposition’s team shape, which was a match-best. Breaking lines and splitting opposition units with his accurate distribution significantly contributed to Mali’s ability to break down Canada’s defence more generally.  

Makalou was also the top-ranked player for balls received after second balls, with 18 receptions. This figure was six more than any other player and suggests that, as well as initiating attacks by progressing the play, Makalou was key in recycling possession and sustaining his team’s attacking output if the ball became contested. 

However, perhaps most impressively, and what González is keen to stress, Makalou strove to finish the very attacks he was involved in. The young Malian executed four more attempts than any other player on the pitch and five of these came from outside the penalty area, suggesting that he is unphased by shooting from long range despite his age. One of these long-range attempts was a crucial action in the run-up to Ibrahim Kanaté’s (11) goal to bring the tie to 3-1. Judging by these numbers, Makalou’s goal in the 77th minute was the consequence of consistent attacking intent and the desire to create shooting opportunities for his team. 

Makalou demonstrated his desire to shoot from outside the box. One of these attempts deflected into the path of Kanaté, who then scored Mali’s third goal.
Line-breaking passes were an essential facet of Makalou’s game and a strong asset for Mali when progressing the ball forward.
Makalou’s goal showcased his ability to progress the ball forward (in this instance, by leading his team’s counter-attack) and dominate second balls.
FIFA U-17 World Cup Indonesia 2023™ POTM Award Winners

M01 IND v ECU: (21) Santiago Sánchez  (ECU)

M02 PAN v MAR: (18) Mohamed Hamony (MAR)

M03 ESP v CAN: (9) Marc Guiu (ESP)

M04 MLI v UZB: (17) Mamadou Doumbia (MLI)

M05 BRA v IRN: (1) Arsha Shakouri (IRN)

M06 NCL v ENG: (10) Sam Amo-Ameyaw (ENG)

M07 JPN v POL: (13) Yumeki Yoshinaga (JPN)

M08 ARG v SEN: (10) Amara Diouf (SEN)

M09 FRA v BFA: (8) Saïmon Bouabré (FRA)

M10 KOR v USA: (7) Nimfasha Berchimas (USA)

M11 MEX v GER: (11) Charles Herrmann (GER)

M12 VEN v NZL: (8) Giovanny Sequera (VEN)

M13 IDN v PAN: (8) Arkhan Kaka (IDN)

M14 MAR v ECU: (10) Michael Bermúdez (ECU)

M15 ESP v MLI: (2) Héctor Fort (ESP)

M16 UZB v CAN: (9) Amirbek Saidov (UZB)

M17 BRA v NCL: (9) Kauã Elias (BRA)

M18 ENG v IRN: (11) Joel Ndala (ENG)

M19 JPN v ARG: (10) Claudio Echeverri (ARG)

M20 SEN v POL: (19) Idrissa Gueye (SEN)

M21 FRA v KOR: (20) Mathis Amougou (FRA)

M22 USA v BFA: (1) Adam Beaudry (USA)

M23 MEX v VEN: (9) Stephano Carrillo (MEX)

M24 NZL v GER: (10) Noah Darvich (GER)

M25 MAR v IDN: (4) Ayoub Chaikhoun (MAR)

M26 ECU v PAN: (11) Oldemar Castillo (PAN)

M27 UZB v ESP: (8) Roberto Martín (ESP)

M28 CAN v MAL (3) Hamidou Makalou (MAL)

M29 ENG v BRA: (20) Estêvão (BRA)

M30 IRN v NCL: (8) Amir Razzaghinia (IRN)

M31 SEN v JPN: (1) Wataru Goto (JPN)

M32 POL v ARG: (7) Ian Subiabre (ARG)

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