After a goalless regulation time at the semi-final of the U-17 African Cup of Nations against Guinea, the Golden Eaglets fell short in the penalty shootout.
With tired legs and huge pressure on their young shoulders as the penalty went further, players from both teams took to the spot. They arrowed exquisite penalties beyond the reach of the goalkeepers until fullback Ogaga Oduko skied the 20th penalty of the shootout for Guinea to win 10-9.
The junior Sylis were quick off the block trying to establish their dominance in the opening stages. It took a stretching save from Stephen Sunday to tip Algassime Bah’s long-range effort onto the crossbar in the 10th minute.
Wisdom Ubani stated his intent with a low effort that missed the goal as the Golden Eaglets looked to grow into the game. The Guineans were brisk, mopping up loose balls and giving Nigeria very little time on the ball.
The Eaglets depended on quick breaks using the pace of their forwards to carve out chances. Ubani worked himself into a promising position after beating two defenders but he couldn’t apply to telling finish to put Nigeria ahead.
Sekou Camara was stunned by Ubani’s deflected free-kick in the 73rd minute but looked relieved when the ball scraped crossbar and went for a cornerkick.
Nigeria fashioned more chances as the game inched towards the end of regulation time but were poor in the execution of the chances.
The referee whistled the end of regulation time and the game went straight to penalty shootout. It was a huge test of nerves, precision and a dint of luck. Camara got his hands to two of the penalties but was left in demonstrable anguish as the balls still rippled the net. He had his lap of victory eventually when Oduko rifled Nigeria’s tenth penalty into the stands.
The Golden Eaglets will play the third-place match against loser of the second semifinal between Cameroon and Angola.