Nigerian U-17 squad, popularly known as the Golden Eaglets, played their opening qualifying match against Burkina Faso in Niger. The Eaglets are in Group A of the Western African Football Union (WAFU) zone B with Cote d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso and Benin Republic. Whoever wins this group will go ahead to play in Tanzania in the 2019 U-17 African Cup of Nations (AFCON).
A lot of hope had been surrounding the talented, young squad ahead of kick-off. But the match didn’t start as planned. Burkina Faso scored an early goal from a controversial 3rd minute Albert Outtara penalty, although it did seem that the foul was inside the box. And inside 10 minutes Burkina Faso were 2:0 up after Nigeria gave up an unnecessary free kick near the edge of the box allowing Issa Ouedrago to shoot directly at goal and score. Nigeria’s youngsters didn’t give up and managed to get one back quickly when a nice pass through the middle found the open Olakunle Olusegun allowing him to score an easy goal in the 13th minute. Dominating possession in the first half, Nigeria got another goal back just at the right time when they were awarded a penalty in the 45th minute. Olusegun confidently found the upper right corner of the goal and gave the goalkeeper no chance. It was 2:2 at the break.
The Eaglets started the second half much better than the first, but Burkina Faso, also known as the Baby Etalons, retreated and defended well, not allowing Nigeria to find the right pass. Twelve minutes before the end of the game, in the 79th minute, Burkina Faso striker Moubarack Compaore picked up a loose ball in the middle of the field, charged forward and managed to score from a tough angle to put his team 3:2 up. Nigeria had some chances towards the end which they failed to convert.
The Golden Eaglets have a tough two games ahead of them. They are playing Cote d’Ivoire on Thursday, a game they must win if they are to go through to the semi-finals. In the last game, they face Benin Republic on Sunday, September 9th. As we mentioned before, only the winners of each group will go on to play in the 2019 U-17 AFCON tournament in Tanzania. Hopefully, coach Manu Garba will make sure his players cut down on the defensive mistakes, especially the ones from the first two goals the conceded, which cost them the game today.