U17 AFCON: Nigeria, Guinea battle for final ticket

PHOTO CREDIT: Cafonline.com
Golden Eaglets: PHOTO CREDIT: Cafonline.com

An all-West African clash is on the cards in the first semifinal contest at the ongoing Africa U17 Cup of Nations in Tanzania as the Golden Eaglets of Nigeria square up against their counterparts from Guinea.

The Golden Eaglets are eyeing a third continental title having been last crowned African champions at this level over a decade ago.

The two occasions when Nigeria won the U-17 AFCON was in 2001 and 2007, but they are the record winners of the FIFA U17 World Cup (five times).

They are also taking part in their 9th U17 AFCON. An intimidating pedigree that is bound to send jitters into Guinea’s camp.

Though with no title(s) yet, Guinea also come into the encounter with some recent eye-popping accomplishments.

The Junior Syli Nationale are the reason Cup holders, Mali, are not in Tanzania, having beaten the Malians at the WAFU A Tournament in September to earn their ticket.

The Guineans also flaunt victories over Senegal (another team highly respected in youth football) and Morocco in the group phase as they set to trade tackles with the Golden Eaglets on Wednesday.

With all four teams in the semifinals (Nigeria, Guinea, Cameroon, Angola) having secured their places at the FIFA U17 World Cup taking place in Brazil later in the year, there would be no pulling punches as all of them focus on being in Sunday’s final in Tanzania’s capital.

Guinea are making their seventh appearance at the Africa U17 Cup of Nations which began in Mali 24 years ago.

According to the feelers from the camp of the Eaglets, Coach Manu Garba is most likely to start with his regular squad.

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This means Sunday Stephen will be in goal, Shedrack Tanko and Ogaga Oduko as wingbacks, Clement Ikenna and David Ishaya at centreback, captain Samson Tijani, Mayowa Abayomi (or Fawaz Abdullahi) and Olatomi Olaniyan in the midfield, and Akinkunmi Ayobami Amoo, Olakunle Olusegun and Wisdom Ubani at the fore.

Already, the Confederation of African Football, CAF has announced the introduction of the Additional Assistant Referee (AAR) ahead of the semifinal games.

Two Additional Assistant Referees, one each will stand beside each goal-post to enhance decision making and also reduce human errors in the game.

This is the first time the services of AAR will be used in African football.

The Nigeria, Guinea semifinal game is billed to take place at the National Stadium, Dar Er Salam at 4.00 p.m. local time which is 2 p.m. in Nigeria

In the second semifinal, kicking off a few hours later at the same venue, Cameroon and Angola will clash in what is expected to be another tough encounter.

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