The Golden Eaglets of Nigeria ‘sneaked’ into the last four of the African U-17 tournament yesterday, no thanks to the Baby Elephants of Ivory Coast, who defeated the Black Starlets of Ghana 3-1 in their last Group B in Togo.
The Nigerian team, led by coach Fatai Amoo, had put themselves in tight corner by losing 0-1 to Cote d’Ivoire in their first game before playing 1-1 with Ghana.
Since then, many football-loving Nigerians began to pray for the Baby Elephants to beat Ghana with a two-goal margin. The Ivoiriens responded in a big way yesterday by triumphing 3-1, a result, which sent the Black Starlets of Ghana out of the championship.
Like the Golden Eaglets, the Ben Fokuo-led Ghanaian team recorded just a point after two games and needed a draw to seal passage to the last four.
Togolese referee Vicentia Eyonam Amedome was accused of denying Ghana three penalties yesterday. She denied the Black Starlets a penalty in the 32nd minute as the Ghanaian forward was fouled in the box after a late challenge from an Ivoiriens defender.
The Ivoiriens scored in the opening minutes of the first half through Arafat Doumbia as the first half ended 1-0 in their favour. Back from the break, the Ivoirien team extended their lead to 2-0 through Arafat Doumbia in the 49th.
Few minutes later, the Black Starlets pulled one back. Arafat Doumbia got his hat-trick as he scored from the spot to give the Baby Elephants a commanding 3-1 lead.
Cote d’Ivoire and Nigeria have booked qualification to the last four from Group B.
The hosts, Togo, were disqualified from the competition two days ago for fielding a player, who failed an MRI age test. The Confederation of African Football (CAF) communicated Togo’s disqualification in a memo to the Togo FA.
The correspondence stated that going by Article 27.4 of the tournament rules and regulations Togo have been disqualified and the results of the two matches they have so far played have been cancelled.
The Golden Eaglets have won five times at FIFA U-17 World Cup at China ‘85, Japan ‘93, Korea, 2007, United Arab Emirates 2013 and Chile 2015. The victory in 2015 made the Golden Eaglets the first team ever to win the junior world cup five times, and also the second team since Brazil to win it back-to-back.
The Golden Eagles also won the African U-17 Championship in 2001 and 2007, and were runners-up in 1995.