Last September, the Nigeria Under-17 national team took part in the West African Football Union Zone B qualifying tournament. They made it all the way to the final game where they beat Ghana after a penalty shootout. By winning this tournament, Nigeria qualified for the Under-17 African Cup of Nations (AFCON) that is bound to take place in Tanzania in April this year.
This past week, the Golden Eaglets have been invited to a special (invitation only) tournament in Turkey which will serve as a test of their form ahead of the big championship. The tournament is scheduled for 1st to 10th March with several other African Under-17 national teams also taking part. The African teams will be playing against a few teams from Europe. The details about the teams involved are yet to be announced.
Eaglets head coach Manu Garba spoke to the media and has stated that he had the utmost confidence in his players. He noted that they had the mentality of winners without being over-confident. Garba also mentioned that sometimes young players can get ahead of themselves, but he praised his youngsters as being level-headed and willing to constantly improve.
The main target for the 2019 AFCON is to get amongst the top four teams in order to qualify for the 2019 U-17 World Cup. Nigerian Under-17 side have won the World Cup five times already, last time in 2015. Manu Garba led the Eaglets in 2013 when they were also World Champions. He promised his players would once again make Nigeria proud, in Turkey, as well as in Tanzania.
The 2019 Under-17 AFCON will be played between the dates of 14th till the 28th April, in Tanzania. Eight teams will compete in two groups, A and B. Golden Eaglets have been drawn in Group A with Uganda, Angola and the hosts, Tanzania. In Group B, Guinea, Cameroon, Morocco and Senegal will compete.
By the end of February, the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) is expected to announce the location of the camp where the Eaglets will be preparing for the April 2019 tournament. National team coach Manu Garba has been vocal about the NFF leaving it this late to decide on the camp location.
The first two teams in the group will go through to the semi-finals. These four teams will be Africa’s representatives at the 2019 Under-17 FIFA World Cup in Peru, which will take place in October this year.