For the umpteenth time, the existing football rivalry between Nigeria and Ghana will be rekindled when the Flying Eagles open their campaign at the 2022 WAFU B Championship with the Black Satellites on Sunday, May 8 at the General Seyni Kountche Stadium in Niamey, the capital of Niger Republic.
Both sides will be seeking revenge because the Black Queens of Ghana were kicked out of the 2022 Africa Women’s Cup of Nations by the Super Falcons while the Black Stars of Ghana stopped the Super Eagles from reaching the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.
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The most successful nation at the continental showpiece with seven titles, the Flying Eagles are in Niamey as top favourites to progress from their group and qualify for the 2023 Africa junior Nations Cup in Egypt.
Their opponents are also heavyweights in the competition having won four titles and are the only African team to have won the FIFA U-20 World Cup. The historic victory was recorded on African soil when Egypt hosted the junior World Cup in 2009.
Apart from the Black Satellites, the Flying Eagles are in Group B alongside another West African neighbour, Burkina Faso while hosts Niger are drawn against Ivory Coast, Togo and Benin Republic in Group A.
Ladan Bosso who was reinstated by the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) despite failing to qualify the team for the 2021 U-20 Africa Cup of Nations in Mauritania will want to prove doubters wrong and the West African derby on Sunday is a perfect setting for him to kick-start his self redemption mission.
Meanwhile, the Black Satellites who are the defending champions of both the WAFU B and the AFCON U-20 tournaments won’t come easy for the Nigerian youngsters who must dig deep to overcome their perennial rivals.
It will also be recalled that it was the Black Satellites who stopped the Flying Eagles from qualifying for the 2021 junior AFCON in Mauritania.
At the WAFU B Championship in neighbouring Benin Republic, the Flying Eagles began their campaign for Mauritania 2021 on a sloppy note as they drew 1-1 against the Young Elephants of Cote d’Ivoire before losing 0-1 to the Black Satellites in their final group match.
The Flying Eagles were effectively eliminated when Ghana lost 0-1 to Cote d’Ivoire in their final match of the group. Thereafter, Ghana went on to win the junior AFCON in Mauritania for their fourth title.
However, expectations are that the 2022 Flying Eagles will perform better than they did in 2021 in Cotonou. Interestingly, before the team jetted out to Niamey, Bosso allayed fears that the team may not do well due to the short time he had to prepare for the tournament.
The former Kano Pillars, El-Kanemi Warriors, Wikki Tourists and Abia Warriors coach said he and his team were not afraid of Group rivals Ghana and Burkina Faso at the qualifiers.
“We will strive to give our best to win our first match and the subsequent ones in order to progress,” he said.
When they were camped in Abuja, the Flying Eagles played and won three friendly matches, scoring a total of 10 goals while conceding four.
In Niamey, they have so far played three warm-up matches, twice against the U-20 side of Niger Republic and Niger Ligue 1 side, Olympic Niamey.
The first test game last Friday against Niger Republic U-20 boys ended in a barren draw and the second fixture played on Monday saw the Flying Eagles edging their hosts 1-0.
They then whitewashed Olympic Niamey 4-0 on Wednesday with Muhammad Aminu, Ibrahim Yahya, Ahmed Abdullahi and Muhammed Beji scoring a goal each as they get set for the crucial tie with the Black Satellites on Sunday.
Bosso said despite the late preparation, the team was improving tactically with each friendly match played.
“I think the team is improving every day. We plan to have more blending and bonding in Niamey, as the tournament is fast approaching,” he said.
Meanwhile, Bosso has chosen Enyimba FC’s young defender, Oluwatosin Adegbite, as the captain of the Nigerian junior national team.
Adegbite has been identified as a player with leadership qualities and commands respect among his teammates.
As the hostilities in Niamey are about to commence, it is imperative to reiterate that the top two teams from each group will progress to the semi-final of the competition and only the two finalists would qualify to represent WAFU B at the 2023 African Youth Championship in Egypt.
The top four teams from the junior AFCON in Egypt will then qualify to play in the FIFA U-20 World Cup which will be staged in Indonesia later in 2023.
The WAFU B tournament organisers have allowed for an enlarged squad of 30 players due to COVID-19, but participating teams will have to pick up the expenses for the six additional players.
The cadet tournament is billed to end on May 20 in Niamey, the Nigerien capital.