Mali and Uruguay have qualified for the Round of 16 after a 1-1 draw that left them facing the drawing of lots to decide which of the two finishes second in Group D*. That draw took place in Auckland shortly after the sides were left with identical points and goal tallies, Serbia having secured top spot with a 2-0 win over Mexico.
The 'loser' of this drawing of lots will advance in any case as one of the best third-placed teams, and the fact that a draw was enough for both was evident in the sides' safety-first approach. It was certainly not a match that will live long in the memory, with chances in extremely short supply and neither team willing to commit numbers to attack.
Uruguay's 17th-minute opener came completely out of the blue and was a tribute to the intelligence of Franco Acosta. Mali had made a hash of clearing the ball out of defense and when Ramiro Guerra looped a header back into the area, Acosta - unmarked, onside but with his back to goal - applied the most delicate of glancing touches to deflect it past the keeper.
Mali responded and might have drawn level on a couple of occasions, first when Aboubacar Doumbia was off target with a powerful cross-cum-shot and then when Falaye Sacko's curling effort was held by the impressive Gaston Guruceaga. However, as half-time neared, Guruceaga was involved in the incident that led to parity being restored when he was penalized for handling a back-pass.
Uruguay protested the award but Mali made sure to take full advantage, with Adama Traore taking possession of the indirect free-kick and curling a powerful left-foot shot into the bottom corner from 16 yards.
That set up the result that both teams needed and, in truth, the second half - a complete non-event in terms of goalscoring chances - showed that. Uruguay and Mali can now both look forward to the last 16, with an update on the final group rankings to be provided soon on FIFA.com.
* The drawing of lots, conducted in Auckland and witnessed by both teams via a live video link, has left Uruguay in second and Mali in third. Both teams advance to the last 16.