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U-17 WAFU Cup: Golden Eaglets fly past Baby Elephants, through to final

Nigeria books 2023 U-17 AFCON slot

Nigeria’s Golden Eaglets successfully exacted revenge on their Ivorian counterparts at the ongoing U-17 WAFU Cup with a 3-1 win over the Baby Elephants in the semifinal of the competition.

Having come through the group stage unscathed, the boys from Nigeria were out to seal a place in the final of the tournament in Ghana, with a place in next year’s U-17 AFCON in Algeria up for grabs. They were up against an Ivorian side that won only one of their group games and qualified for the semifinals thanks to their superior goal differential.

Ivory Coast made their first foray forward in the game count as they stunned observers to open the scoring in the second minute of the encounter. Enterprising forward Yan Diamande showed his pace and trickery to drive the ball into the box before he was hacked down by a defender. He picked himself up and launched the resulting penalty into the top corner, far beyond the reach of the goalkeeper for his fourth goal of the competition.

Conceding straight from kickoff seemed to sting the Golden Eaglets and they began to take the game to the Ivorians, who looked up to the task.

The Nduka Ugbade-tutored boys would eventually draw level in spectacular fashion through their excellent left-back Emmanuel Michael. The SimoIben Academy star drove home a delightful free-kick from a tight angle in the 30th minute for his second goal of the tournament.

The youngster, who plays for the academy owned by Super Eagles star Moses Simon, then showed his dead-ball expertise by striking home another brilliant free-kick, his third of the tournament, in the 43rd minute to give the Golden Eaglets a 2-1 lead at half-time.

Midfielder Idris Abdullahi was not going to be stopped as he powered home a header from a free-kick taken by right-back Yahaya Lawali in the 60th minute to put the game to bed.

Ivory Coast huffed and puffed throughout the rest of the match, coming close on a number of occasions when the Nigerian defenders went to sleep, but they were unable to add to their goal.

Nigeria’s Golden Eaglets avenged their defeat at the hands of the Baby Elephants in the final of the U-17 WAFU Cup in 2019 and will face one of Ghana or Burkina Faso in the final. The excellent Emmanuel Michael was named man of the match for the third straight match, an amazing feat for the 16-year-old defender.

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