BY MUYIWA AKINTUNDE.
As the battle to pick qualification ticket for the 2019 Africa U-17 Cup of Nations gets under way in WAFU Zone 2 in Niamey, Niger Republic, Nigeria’s Golden Eaglets will need to rediscover their famed form.
The team face Cote d’Ivoire Thursday afternoon in what has become a three-horse race after the disqualification of Benin Republic just before the tournament kicked off on Monday.
The Nigerian side, five-time record world champions have increasingly found survival difficult since the historic win in 2015. The team could not make it to even the African tournament after losing to Niger Republic in the qualifying series.
Is the team jinxed in Niamey? It was on that same soil that the Eaglets crashed out from the African qualifiers two years ago.
Another elimination is looming except the team maximize their chances this Thursday and beat Cote d’Ivoire convincingly and hope Burkina Faso will not pick any point from Cote d’Ivoire in the only other remaining match of the series.
The Nigerian side lost the first and only match of the series to Burkina Faso on Monday. Even a draw will not help them in the second match.
They have no margin for error as they approach this last group match. Having lost their opening fixture to group leaders Burkina Faso, they must win this Thursday evening in Niamey to have their fate in their own hands.
A draw will mean having to depend on the Burkinabe to beat the Ivorien in their last match which then leaves deciding the runners-up in the group on the luck of the lots.
If Nigeria loses, the most successful nation in the cadet world cup will again be missing in action in Peru next year having not qualified for the last edition.