After being held by South Africa in the second game of the 2019 Under-20 African Cup of Nations (AFCON), the Nigerian team took on the hosts Niger in the last match of the group stage. The venue was once again the Général Seyni Kountché Stadium.
Nigerian head coach Paul Aigbogun has made a couple of changes in the starting eleven for this game. Aremu Afeez and Maxwell Effiom were replaced by Aniekeme Okon and Aliyu Ibrahim. Here’s the complete starting line-up:
Goalkeeper: Olawale Oremade
Defence: Ozornwafor James, Ikouwem Utin and Zaruma Mike, Ogbu Igor
Midfield: Jamil Mohammed, Abubakar Ibrahim, Alhassan Adamu and Aniekeme Okon
Forwards: Aliyu Ibrahim and Nazifi Yahaya
Neither side had many chances in the first half but Nazifi Yahaya did miss a good one. The half ended goalless.
The start of the second half didn’t change the game but the Flying Eagles were still the better team. However, it was the Junior Mena who had the first good chance of the half. Oremade made a great save to deny a header from Mohammed Jamil in the 51st minute.
The Eagles finally managed to score in the 73rd minute. The referee has given a free-kick to Nigeria which Alhassan Adamu converted into a goal. Soon after, coach Aigbogun brought in Maxwell Effiom and Adeshina Gata to give his team some freshness. That was enough to hold the Niger team at bay and win the match.
In the other game, South Africa beat Burundi 1:0. At the end of the group stage of the competition, Nigeria finish top of Group A with seven points with South Africa in second. Both are through to the AFCON semi-finals. They also automatically qualify for the 2019 Under-20 World Cup in Poland later in the year.
In the other group, Senegal and Mali are through to the semi-finals and the World Cup. Senegal thrashed Burkina Faso 5:1 to record their third win and confirm their first place in the table. Mali defeated Ghana 1:0 to finish second and book their place in the semis.
Group A winners Nigeria will face Mali in the semi-finals on February 13th. South Africa will face Senegal. The Flying Eagles beat Mali only a couple of months ago in the Under-20 WAFU Cup in Togo. The score was 1:0 to Nigeria then. Both semi-final matches will be played at the Général Seyni Kountché Stadium in Niamey.
Nigeria and Senegal are favourites to reach the final and fight for the 2019 AFCON Championship.