In a repeat of last edition’s pulsating final in Togo, Nigeria and Ivory Coast, two of the 2022 WAFU B competition’s most prolific goal scorers, square up in Ghana in what promises to be a goalfest
The Nigeria under-17 national team will, on Tuesday, June 21st, trade tackles with Cote d’Ivoire in one of the semifinal clashes of the ongoing 2023 CAF U-17 Africa Cup of Nations WAFU Zone B qualifying competition.
The Nigerians and the Ivorians have not been shy in front of goalkeepers at this championship, with the two teams accounting for 17 goals in only five matches between them.
To set up this tie, the Golden Eaglets won both of their games to finish top of the three-team Group A.
The Nduka Ugbade-tutored side lashed four goals past Ghana to record a 4-2 win over the hosts on matchday one.
Emmanuel Michael’s sumptuous free-kick opened the floodgates before Precious Williams, Jubril Azeez, and Ebube Okere compounded the woes of the Black Satellites.
The Eaglets did not spare neighbours Togo on matchday two as goals from Kevwe Iyede, Precious Williams, and Light Eke powered the Nigerians to a 3-1 triumph.
If seven goals in two games showed the attacking prowess of Nigeria’s cadet team, then ten goals in three matches speak volumes of Ivory Coast’s brilliance upfront.
The Young Elephants scored twice in the 2-3 loss to Benin, claimed an emphatic 6-1 victory over Niger, and grabbed another brace when falling to a 2-4 defeat to Burkina Faso.
Two losses and one win only gave the Ivorians three Group B points, but Benin’s surprise defeat to Niger on matchday three handed the Young Elephants a lucky ticket to the final four.
The Golden Eaglets are the most successful team in the world at the cadet level, with a record five FIFA under-17 World Cup titles in their trophy cabinet.
But for all their global dominance, the Eaglets have a terrible record against the Baby Elephants.
Cote d’Ivoire are the defending champions of this tournament, having inflicted a 3-2 defeat on a coach Fatai Amoo-tutored side – at the time the defending champions – in the final of the 2021 edition at the Stade de Kegue in Lome, Togo.
That defeat to the Young Elephants was the Golden Eaglets’ fourth in five matches against their nemesis, winning the other one – a 5-1 victory in 2018.
Player to watch
Head coach Nduka Ugbade has managed to put together a bunch of athletic, technical, and hungry boys who can do themselves and the nation proud.
Two-goal hero Precious Williams is one to watch, while super-sub Light Eke is as exciting as they come.
But the shining light of this Golden Eaglets team is arguably full-back Emmanuel Michael.
Blessed with a tireless engine that runs down the flanks multiple times in ninety minutes, the versatile 16-year-old also has a reputation at dead ball situations.
A product of the Moses Simon-sponsored Simoiben Academy, Michael won the man-of-the-match awards in both Eaglets’ games.
And he could deliver the match-winning strike or assist in a close encounter with the Ivorians.
Africa U17 Cup of Nations Qualification
Venue: Cape Coast Stadium
Date: Tuesday, 21st June 2022
Kick-off time: 16:00 (4 pm, Nigerian time)
Nigeria probable starting eleven (4-3-3):
Richard Odoh; Emmanuel Michael, Jeremiah Olaleke, Miracle Ogwor, Yahaya Lawal; Raphael Oyebanjo, Ebube Okere, Ozor Okere; Kevwe Iyede, Precious Williams, Jubril Azeez.
Expect goals aplenty in this one as two of the most recent winners of this competition go for each other’s jugular.
The Ivorians are the slight underdogs but are bruised from their exploits in the group stage and would be a dangerous opponent on Tuesday.
The Nigerians have much work to do in defence, but they boast enough talent in attack to narrowly edge a high-scoring encounter.
Tip: Nigeria U17 3-2 Cote d’Ivoire U17