Nigeria’s U-17 Golden Eaglets matched the achievement of their U-20 counterparts by claiming a 2-1 win over Burkina Faso in the final of the U-17 WAFU Cup at the Cape Coast Stadium in Ghana.
The boys from Nigeria were in the mood from the get-go and quickly asserted a level of dominance over the Etalons, stringing passes brilliantly in spite of the water-logged surface. Basil Mbata and Ebube Okere pulled the strings from midfield.
The Golden Eaglets were rewarded for their endeavour in the 23rd minute through winger Abubakar Idris Abdullahi. A free-kick from Yahaya Lawali was headed clear and Okere recycled the ball to the impressive Emmanuel Michael, who sent in a brilliant cross that needed only a touch from Abdullahi to nestle into the bottom corner of the net.
The Nigerian side continued to control the proceedings, but a lapse in concentration on the cusp of half-time gave their opponents a way back into the game.
A deep cross from the right wing was headed back across goal and lanky striker Abdramane Ouedraogo arrived before the goalkeeper Richard Odoh to plant a header into the back of the net in the 43rd minute to send both sides into the break level.
Nduka Ugbade’s instructions were clearly heeded by the boys as they retook the lead within three minutes of the restart, albeit in fortuitous circumstances.
A free-kick from Emmanuel Michael stung the palms of the Burkina Faso goalkeeper, who showed poor handling to drop the ball, allowing Abdullahi to poke home his second of the game.
After the Eaglets’ goal, Burkina Faso began to show why they had won all four matches in the competition up to the final. Winger Abubakar Kamara was a thorn in the flesh of the Nigerian side as he helped create numerous openings, but his side met a defence well marshalled by Miracle Ogwor, who was named Man-of-the-match following a splendid performance.
Okere was denied by the crossbar midway through the second half, with Abdullahi missing two good opportunities to score his hat-trick after being brilliantly played in twice by the hardworking Mbata.
The Golden Eaglets were left hanging on for dear life, but their sure-footed defending was what saw them through to the final whistle.
After winning the U-17 WAFU Cup for Zone B, Nigeria will represent the zone in Algeria next year at the AFCON, where they will be joined by beaten finalists Burkina Faso.