AYC 2015: Nigeria battles Ghana for final ticket

Nigeria Flying Eagles player sheilding the ball from a Gabonese during the 2nd leg match of the 11th All Africa Games Qualifier at the National Stadium Abuja.

It will be another tense battle as the Nigeria-Ghana rivalry takes centre stage in the first semi-final match of the ongoing 2015 Africa Youth Championships on Wednesday evening at the Leopold Sedar Senghor Stadium.

The Flying Eagles, Nigeria’s U20 team, though finishing tops in Group A, would be wary of the Ghana U20 team, the Black Satellites who finished as runners-up behind Mali in Group B.

The Ghanaians have dominated Nigeria in past editions of this competition, winning four of the five meetings between the two sides.

The Flying Eagles have lost to their West African rivals on these four occasions when they have clashed – in 1985 (2-1), 1993 (1-0), 1999 (1-0) and 2001 (4-1)) but only broke the jinx in 2011 en-route their way to being crowned champions.

While qualification ticket for the FIFA U20 World Cup is already in the kitty for the Flying Eagles as well as Ghana, Nigerian Coach Manu Garba has reiterated he would want to go to New Zealand as African champions.

“There will really be no point qualifying for the World Cup if we cannot go there as champions of Africa,” Coach Manu Garba was quoted as saying on the official NFF website ahead of this epic semi-final.

“Our tournament starts with this game and we have to be prepared to win it so as to stay on track for our main target, which is to be champions of Africa.

“This is the final before the final; it will even be tougher than the final.” He declared.

On his part, Ghana coach Sellas Tetteh has admitted that Nigeria is a strong favourite but was quick to add that his side will give a fierce fight.

“They (Nigeria) have consistency and continuity, and the cohesion and understanding of the team is there.

“It is clear Nigeria has an advantage having played at the Leopold Sedar Senghor Stadium previously but that won’t take anything away. Our mental fortitude has to be strong.”

Ghana drew 2-2 and lost 2-0 to Nigeria in a pre-tournament two-legged friendly played in Accra and Tema last month.
Kick-off time for Wednesday’s crunch semi-final is 6 p.m. Nigerian time.

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