Nigeria has qualified for the 2023 Under-20 Africa Cup of Nations after defeating Cote d’Ivoire 2-1 in the semi-finals of the Wafu-Ufoa Zone B qualifiers played on Tuesday night, May 17, 2022.
The victory over Cote d’Ivoire has taken the Nigerian youth team to the final of the Wafu-Ufoa Zone B qualifiers and has also given the Flying Eagles the automatic ticket to participate in the biennial African youth tournament next year.
Goals from Daniel Daga and Ibrahim Yahaya helped the Flying Eagles overcome the Junior Elephants after extra time inside Stade General Seyni Kountche, Niamey. Having finished as Group B winners thanks to a 2-0 victory over Ghana and a 2-2 draw with Burkina Faso, Ladan Bosso’s boys set up a date with Cote d’Ivoire – who finished as Group A runners-up.
Just five minutes into the game, Daga put the Nigerian side ahead after heading home from close range with the Ivorian defenders caught flatfooted. The Flying Eagles dominated ball possession; however, they missed several goal-scoring opportunities.
Even at that, Cote d’Ivoire levelled matters on the stroke of half-time as Seydou Traore’s well-taken free-kick beat a stranded goalkeeper, Nathaniel Nwosu. Both teams came out stronger in the second half, but they were unable to get the winning goal.
Nonetheless, Bosso’s side reigned supreme in the second half of extra time as Yahaya beat goalkeeper Issa Fofana from the penalty mark after Tolulope Ojo was fouled in the box by Aboubacar Sylla. Despite a late attacking rally by Lassina Dao’s Cote d’Ivoire, they were unable to restore parity – thus, failing in their quest to qualify for the 2023 Under-20 youth tournament in Egypt.
“We have watched Cote d’Ivoire play against Benin Republic and we observed that they play a three-man defence, five in the middle and two up front,” Bosso told the media during a post-match conference.
“Having in mind that we did not start preparations [for this competition] early, there was no way we could match the strength of the Ivorians in the midfield, so we played a three-man midfield and four upfront.
“That was what gave us the first goal and the penalty. In all honesty, Cote d’Ivoire are not a bad side, but they will have to try their luck another time. “
Nigeria will now face Benin Republic in the final match on Friday. The Junior Squirrels overcame Burkina Faso 2-1 earlier in the day. Egypt 2023 is the 17th edition of the 2023 Under-20 Afcon and the top four teams in the tournament will qualify for the 2023 FIFA World Cup slated for Indonesia.