Nigeria’s Flying Eagles maitained its unbeaten run and quest for the 2015 African Youth Championship (AYC) titles after a 2-2 draw against the Junior Elephants of Cote d’Ivoire in the final Group A match on Saturday in M’bour-Senegal.
The impressive Eagles came from behind twice to draw against an Ivorian side that desperately needed victory to secure semi-final spot and FIFA U-20 World Cup ticket.
Cote d’Ivoire’s quest to snatch the second spot in group A looked well on course when it took the lead in fifth minutes through Degbole Niangbo. But, Flying Eagles drew level in the 27th minute when Christian Pyagbara slotted the ball past onrushing goalkeeper Seck Diagbate.
The victory-searching Ivorians went ahead again through Chris Bile Bedia in the 33rd minute and held on to the lead. The tide took a turn for the worst for the Ivoriens when the referee awarded a penalty to Nigeria following a foul on Mustapha Abdullahi inside the penalty box in the 67th minute. Skipper Musa Muhammed converted the spot and Nigeria held on till the end; and topped the group with seven points, while Senegal sneaked into the last four after beating Congo 4-3 at the death in the other group game in Dakar.
Senegal thus finished on four points, a point more than third-placed Cote d’Ivoire.
”It is very normal that the match was tough because we played against a team that was looking for qualification,” explained Coach Manu Garba in his post match interview.
“I wanted to give a chance to players who had not played yet, and that affected our start. Our goal is to win every game. We still have two games to play and we hope to win both,” he added.
Flying Eagles star, Idowu Akinjide also disclosed that having won a ticket to the World Cup, the team has set its eyes on the ultimate prize- the AYC trophy. “Our first goal was to qualify for the World Cup, which we have already. The second is to win the tournament and finish the job well,” he explained.
By Olisemeka Obeche