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Akure
July 12, 2024
State News

WAFU B U17 Championship: Eaglets defeat Starlets, qualify for U17 AFCON

Nigeria finished in third place to scoop the bronze medal and book a place at next year’s Africa U17 Cup of Nations after a hard-fought 3-2 defeat of hosts Ghana at the WAFU B U17 Championship on Tuesday.

For several days now, there had been opacity around the number of teams that would proceed to the 2025 Africa U17 Cup of Nations from the tournament in Ghana, but the window opened for the third-place winner here when, minutes to kick-off, Cote d’Ivoire (already in the final), was designated as hosts of next year’s continental finals.

With Cote d’Ivoire as hosts and guaranteed a slot, Burkina Faso (no matter the result of the final) and the third-place winner in the earlier game, were assured of berths in Abidjan.

Motivated by the criticism of NFF General Secretary Mohammed Sanusi, the Eaglets entered the match with a determined mindset and quickly took the lead in the ninth minute. Imrana Muhammad scored the opening goal, capitalizing on a chaotic goalmouth scramble.

Home support at the University of Accra Stadium motivated the Black Starlets into action, and they equalised 10 minutes later when a Nigerian defender scored an own goal.

Three-time world champions Ghana took the lead for the first time in the game in the 27th minute when Harve Gbafa profited from a defensive blunder to beat goalkeeper Dominic Chinedu in goal for Nigeria.

Six minutes later, Abdulmuiz Adeleke, who got a brace in the Eaglets’ 3-0 defeat of Togo in their final group phase match, rattled Starlets’ goalkeeper Michael Armah, but the ball was cleared out of danger.

The Eaglets were unrelenting, and four minutes before halftime, Adeleke took his tournament tally to three when he nodded in the equaliser from a pull-out by John Ogwuche.

Both teams started the second period, where they left off at the interval, with delightful attacking football. Ogwuche’s rebound missed the target in the 79th minute.

In the second minute of added time, and with both teams appearing to be thinking of the inevitable penalty shootout, Adeleke took matters into his own hands and scored the winner for Nigeria to secure a place at next year’s continental finals.

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