Nigeria Golden Eaglets has qualified for the final of the WAFU U-17 Cup Tournament holding in Togo, thrashing a resilient Burkina Faso 1-0. The victory also gave Nigeria passage to the CAF U-17 Cup of Nations tournament billed for March 13-31 in Morocco. A 77th minute goal scored by Michael Emmanuel Papo was all Nigeria needed to grab the ticket.
Nigeria’s football fans have doubted the coach’s ability to lead the team to the final stage of the competition, following a poor start to the campaign. After losing their first group match 1-0 to the Baby Elephants of Cote d’Ivoire, and drew 1-1 with the Black Starlets of Ghana, the Nigerians sneaked into the semifinal, thanks to the Ivorians, who hammered Ghana 3-1 in their last group match.
Meanwhile, the build up to yesterday’s semifinal against the Burkinabes was full of tension in the camp of the Golden Eaglets. An official of the team had told Newsmen in a telephone conversation that it would require determination and luck for the Golden Eaglets to secure the victory. He was right, as the taller and more aggressive Burkinabes were everywhere, dictating the pace of the match yesterday.
Hence, after a goalless first half, which saw the Burkinabes miss some chances, the Nigerians came out to counter every move of Burkina Faso.
In one of such moves, Michael Emmanuel Papo capitalsed on a defensive mix up by the Burkinabes to do the damage in the 77th minutes.
The victory by the Golden Eaglets yesterday in Togo was a first major breakthrough for Nigerian football since the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemics in March last year, following series of unimpressive display by both the national teams and clubs in international competitions.
The Golden Eaglets will play the final match against the winner of Cote d’Ivoire and Niger Republic, which was billed to hold later yesterday evening.
The victory was also a big relief for the Amaju Pinnick-led board of the Nigeria Football Federation. Pinnick had visited the Golden Eaglets in Togo last week, where he charged the players to believe in themselves, and that winning gives Nigerians joy.
The Golden Eaglets, who are five times World Champions, had won the African championship in 2001 and 2007.