On Sunday, the Flying Eagles of Nigeria met with the Young Lions of Teranga in the Western African Football Union (WAFU) Under-20 Cup Final, played in Lome, Togo. The young Nigerians beat Mali in a penalty shootout to reach the Finals. In the group stage, they drew with Niger and beat their rivals Ghana. Senegal were the best team in Group A, beating Mali, Burkina Faso and Togo. In the semi-finals, they triumphed over Mali, also after a penalty shootout.
Before the final game, Mali beat Niger 2:1 to finish third in the tournament.
The Eagles were hopeful of going all the way, after twice showing character by battling their way to a win after being down a goal. Coach Paul Aigbogun put the following starting eleven on the pitch: Olawale Oremade at goal, Ikouwem Udoh (C), Abubakar Ibrahim Babawo, Valentine Uzornwafor and Salaudeen Aliu in defence, Victor Arikpo, Adeshina Gata, Aniekeme Okon and Effiom Maxwell in the middle with Victor Boniface and Wasiu Alalade up front.
Senegal were the better team in the first half, creating chances, but the Nigerians managed to keep their goal safe going into the break.
In the second half, the Young Lions once again got out of the traps quickly and scored the opening goal in the 47th minute. Sagna Amadou was the scorer for Senegal. After going down a goal, the Flying Eagles re-grouped and fought back but couldn’t create a good enough chance to beat the Senegalese goalkeeper.
And then, in the 69th minute, Youssouph Badji doubled the lead for the Lions and practically secured the win for his team. Nigeria tried to do something before the final whistle but at the end of the match the result was the same. Senegal are the winners of this years WAFU Cup tournament.
This tournament was created to prepare the West African Under-20 teams for the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) next year in February. Niger Republic are he hosts and the groups for the AFCON 2019 have already been drawn.
Nigeria are in Group A with the hosts Niger Republic, South Africa and Burundi. Senegal have been drawn in Group B and they will face Burkina Faso, Mali and Ghana.
The AFCON tournament will be played on the dates of 2nd until the 17th February. Nations which make it to the semi-finals will represent Africa at the FIFA Under-20 World Cup which will take place in Poland later in the year. Nigerians will feel confident they will be able to make it to the top four and maybe go all the way and win the title of the best African Under-20 side for 2019.