Nigeria’s under-17 national tam, Golden Eaglets have received a massive lifeline from Coe d’Ivoire, who beat Ghana 3-1 at the ongoing West African Football Union (WAFU) Zone-B competition in Lome, Togo, thereby giving Coach Fatai Folorunsho Amoo’s wards a rare opportunity of qualifying for the semi-finals, where they will tango Burkina Faso on Friday, megasportsarena.com reports.
The Eaglets’ hopes looked tattered after they lost their opening game 1-0 to Cote d’Ivoire and settled for a 1-1 draw with Ghana, but the story changed on Tuesday when the Ghanaians lost by a wider margin against the Ivoriens, thereby paving way for Nigeria’s qualification to the next stage of the competition, which serves as qualifiers for this year’s African U-17 Cup of Nations.
A report by the communications department of Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) revealed that the Eaglets reached the semi-finals on Tuesday evening after Group B pacesetters, Cote d’Ivoire hammered Ghana at Stade Municipal, thereby giving the five-time Cadet Mundial champions a huge favour to make their progress to the next stage, but only the two finalists will advance to the U17 AFCON in Morocco.
Nigeria and Ghana both finished with a point each, but the Eaglets enjoyed a better goals difference of -1 as against -2 for The Black Starlets, while Cote d’Ivoire won the group with six points from two matches, with Tueday’s second victory paving the way for Amoo’s side to follow through.
Cote d’Ivoire opened scoring in the ninth minute and doubled their lead soon after the restart and, while Ghana pulled a goal back in the 52nd minute, the Ivorians made it 3-1 from the penalty spot in the 68th minute, and it was that last goal that delivered Nigeria from early elimination.
The report adds: “The Baby Elephants raced into the lead after only nine minutes and consolidated at 2-0 as the match wore on. But the Starlets, themselves two-time champions of the world, pegged back their neighbours to leave Nigeria’s chances on the wire.
“The Eaglets and their Ghanaian counterparts had both scored through penalty kicks on Saturday. It was the time for the Ivorians to benefit, as they netted from six yards with 20 minutes to go to make it a commanding 3-1 win.
“Nigeria will now take on Burkina Faso, another youth football powerhouse, in the semi finals slated for Friday at Togo’s main stadium, Stade Kegue; (but the) hosts, Togo were thrown out of the tournament on Sunday after two of their players failed the mandatory MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) tests conducted by the tournament’s medical team.
“With Togo’s results in the tournament annulled, Burkina Faso soared to the top of Group A, and will be battling the Eaglets at the Stade Kegue in the first semi finals from 5pm Togo time (6pm Nigeria time) on Friday. Same night, Group B winners Cote d’Ivoire will take on Niger Republic as from 8pm Togo time (9pm Nigeria time).
“The winners of the semi finals will battle for the diadem on Wednesday next week at Stade Kegue, and also qualify for the CAF U17 Cup of Nations billed for 13th -31st March in Morocco.”