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Golden Eaglets soaring at WAFU B U-17 championship

Nigeria’s U-17 boys, also known as Golden Eaglets, are silently doing the nation proud at the ongoing WAFU Zone B U-17 Cup of Nations in…

Nigeria’s U-17 boys, also known as Golden Eaglets, are silently doing the nation proud at the ongoing WAFU Zone B U-17 Cup of Nations in Accra, Ghana.

It is an open secret that the age-grade national team is the most successful in the world having won a total of five FIFA Championship titles and are runners up on three occasions. In the continent, they are also two-time Africa U-17 Cup of Nations (AFCON) champions with their last title coming at the 2007 edition.

Their journey to reclaiming regional glory and potentially securing a spot in the next U-17 Africa Cup of Nations has no doubt inspired the lads. So, still basking in their illustrious history, the 2024 Eaglets have taken it upon themselves to maintain the legacies of their predecessors in Ghana.

First, was the reappointment of the versatile coach Manu Garba who led the set of 2013 to win Nigeria’s fourth World Championship title in United Arabs Emirates (UAE).  He has been assigned the task of winning both the AFCON and the FIFA World Championship again.

Before the commencement of the WAFU B Championship in Ghana which also serves as qualifiers for the AFCON, the Golden Eaglets scaled a big hurdle that used to be a source of embarrassment to the nation. For the first time in recent history, the players all passed the mandatory Magnetic Resonance Image (MRI) test.

The Confederation of African Football (CAF) declared that all the 20 players presented by Nigeria for the championship had passed the examination contrary to previous reports that a large number of players invited to the Eaglets’ camp had failed the MRI test.

 “We are happy about the results. Having the whole squad prosecute the tournament somewhat puts our minds at rest.

“The players have been responding to training. The weather is similar to what we experienced in Abuja before our departure. Our primary objective is to get one of the two tickets from here to the Africa U-17 Cup of Nations.

“We will focus on the matches one at a time. For now, we are focused on our opening game against Burkina Faso on Thursday,” said Coach Manu after the results were released.

With the fear of MRI out of the way, the Golden Eaglets went into the tournament in a bullish mood but were held to a goalless draw by the Young Stallions of Burkina Faso in the opening game.

However, in the second group B match against neighbours Niger Republic, the defending champions stormed back to winning ways with a hard-fought 1-0 victory in Accra.

It was a nervy game as they were reduced to ten-men but held on to the slim win as the five-time world champions garnered four points same as Burkina Faso, ahead of the last Group B game against group’s whipping boys, Togo.

The slim victory no doubt came as a great relief to the coach who hailed his boys for their winning mentality against Niger after the draw in the first game.

Ahead of the last group match which was shifted from Wednesday to Thursday morning, Manu said “We are not here to be drawing matches. I am not happy that we drew our first match against Burkina Faso. We should have scored a number of goals especially towards the end but we cannot be crying over spilt milk.

“We got the three points against Niger Republic, and we have to keep at the winning mentality. We cannot afford to gamble; a win is what we are going for. Even though they lost their first two matches, we cannot afford to under-rate the Togolese. They got two goals against Niger Republic, even though they eventually lost, so they are not a team to be taken for granted.”

A draw against the Togolese team would have guaranteed the Eaglets a place in the tournament’s semi-final but they had better ideas as they sailed majestically into the semi-finals with a 3-0 whiplash of Togo’s Baby Sparrow Hawks, that catapulted them to the top of group B and set the stage for a last-four confrontation with the Baby Elephants of Cote d’Ivoire.

Prior to this game, Golden Eaglets’ striker Rapha Adams said that the team will work very hard to beat Togo regardless of the fact that they needed just a draw.

According to the Sporting Supreme FC of Abuja attacker, the Eaglets will do all they can to beat Togo and qualify for the semi-final, noting that winning will be the collective effort of all the players on the pitch.

“We thank God for the victory over Niger. It was a tough game. No game is easy and we know that the game against Togo will be another tough one as well.

“We will defend, attack and score as a team by the grace of God. We have been working hard in training and we will work harder on match day. Our coaches have been teaching us a lot and if we can interpret everything we have been taught very well against Togo, we will come out victorious,” Adams told thenff.com in Accra, Ghana.

So, next for the Golden Eaglets is today’s mouth-watering semi-final clash with the Baby Elephants of Cote d’Ivoire. In the other semi-final match, hosts Ghana will trade tackles with Burkina Faso who finished second in Nigeria’s group.

The two countries that will qualify for the final would represent the region at next year’s U-17 African Cup of Nations (AFCON) and Eaglets are highly favoured to beat the Baby Elephants to the available ticket.


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