Nigeria will meet neighbours Benin in the final of the 2022 Wafu Zone-B U-20 Cup of Nations on Friday as both sides qualified for next year’s Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) following their victories in the semi-final of the competition in Niger on Tuesday.
The Flying Eagles sealed their place in the final after an energy-sapping 2-1 extra-time victory over Cote d’Ivoire while Benin stunned Burkina Faso 2-1 in the first game of the day at the Seyni Kountche Stadium in Niger.
The highly-anticipated clash between Nigeria and Cote d’Ivoire lived up to expectation as the Flying Eagles imposed their physique on the Ivorians to triumph.
Following the 1-1 draw in regulation time, Nigeria proved superior in extra time through Ibrahim Yahaya who also secured the U-20 Afcon qualification for his country after converting a 109th-minute penalty.
Things also started very quickly for Nigeria, who took advantage of an error by the Ivorian goalkeeper to open the scoring early in the game. Daniel Daga’s goal on four minutes came from a corner kick taken by Ibrahim Muhammad.
The Ivorians attempted to respond several times but Abdoulaye Djire (29th) and Abdramane Konate (30th) did not take advantage of the opportunities.
Just before the break Seydou Traoré, the Elephants’ striker, got the Ivorians back into the game when he combined effectively with his midfielders to restore parity.
The two sides tried to win the match after the break but the defenders of both teams stood tall until the end of regulation time. Elephants and Super Eagles are taken into extra time.
Boosted by the instructions of their coach Ladan Bosso, the Flying Eagles put the Elephants in difficulty. They pushed Junior Elephants until the second quarter of an hour when they got a penalty following a foul on Onuché Ogbelu. The resultant penalty was converted by Ibrahim Yahaya to restore his side’s lead.
The Flying Eagles imposed defensive rigour and the Ivorians did not find the keys of unlocking the Nigerian defence until the final whistle.
Nigeria thus goes to the final and meets Benin, who beat Burkina Faso 2-1 in extra-time in the first semi-final.
Benin top players scored two quick goals in extra time through Malick Yongui and Djalilou Ibrahim before Nagoro Dao gave the Burkinabe some hope but it was too late to rescue the match for them.