After a surprising slip up to Burkina Faso a little under two weeks ago, Golden Eaglets emerge victorious in the final of the Western African Football Union (WAFU) Zone B qualifying tournament to book their place at next years U-17 African Cup of Nations (AFCON) in Tanzania. Nigeria’s youngsters showed confidence and skill in their semi-final win over hosts of the tournament, Niger.
The possibility of them being disqualified didn’t rattle them ahead of the final game against rivals Ghana, also known as the Black Starlets. The coach Manu Garba had an abundance of talent at his disposal, including the in-form young striker Olakunle Olusegun who has already scored four goals in three games leading up to the finals. The starters for the Eaglets in this game were Amah, Tijani (C), Ikenna, Ishaya, Hussain, Ibrahim, Akinsola, Adeniyi, Olaniyan, Olusegun and Amoo.
The venue for the match was Stade Général Seyni Kountché in Niamey. Excitements were few and far between in the first half as we went into the break with a 0:0 score, even though Nigeria were attacking more and were close to scoring just before the end of the half. At the start of the second half, the Eaglets pressured the Starlets but it was them who managed to take the lead in the 54th minute.
Nigeria didn’t lose focus and continued to attack. They were rewarded only 13 minutes later when Akinwunmi Amoo managed to find the back of the net in the 67th minute.
There were a few chances before the end of regulation time but the score stayed at 1:1 leading us into a penalty shootout. Amoo himself missed a penalty but The Golden Eaglets managed to beat the Black Starlets 3:1 in the end. This means that they are going to the AFCON 2019 in Tanzania and Ghana are sitting it out.
By beating Ghana, Nigeria are now also one of the six teams, alongside Morocco, Angola, Uganda, Cameroon and Tanzania, who will fight it out for the FOUR spots available for the 2019 U-17 FIFA World Cup in Peru. Coach Garba has thanked his young players for their performances and praised their talent. However, he also did send a few critics at the Confederation of African Football (CAF) because of the current qualifying format for the Cup of Nations. He said that the best African sides are in West Africa and that it’s a shame that, with this format, talented sides like Ghana and Ivory Coast won’t be taking part in the tournament.