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After Cote d’Ivoire had been responsible for elimination of Nigerian teams at international contests since September 2019, the Ivorians on Tuesday opened the back gate for Nigeria’s Golden Eaglets to reach the semi finals of the WAFU U17 Cup Tournament ongoing in Lome, Togo.

The Group B pacesetters Cote d’Ivoire hammered the Black Starlets of Ghana 3-1 at the city’s Stade Municipal.

Five-time world champions Nigeria, who lost by the odd goal to the Ivorians on the opening day of the competition and were forced to a 1-1 draw by the Starlets at the weekend, needed a favour from the Ivorians to progress to the knockout stage. And the Ivorians obliged.

Before now, the Ivorians eliminated Nigeria’s Falcon in the qualifying series for Tokyo 2020 women’s football tournament. The Ivorians were also largely responsible for Nigeria’s under 23 side’s loss of qualification ticket for the men’s football tournament at Tokyo 2020.

Only weeks ago in Benin Republic, Cote d’Ivoire also pushed out Nigeria’s under 20 team in WAFU tournament.

On Tuesday, they ‘atoned for their sins’ when they beat Ghana by two-goal margin to aid Nigeria’s passage into the semi finals.

The Baby Elephants raced into the lead after only nine minutes and consolidated at 2-0 as the match wore on. But the Starlets, themselves two-time champions of the world, pegged back their neighbours to leave Nigeria’s chances on the wire.

The Eaglets and their Ghanaian counterparts had both scored through penalty kicks on Saturday. It was the time for the Ivorians to benefit, as they netted from six yards with 20 minutes to go to make it a commanding 3-1 win.

Nigeria will now take on Burkina Faso, another youth football powerhouse, in the semi finals slated for Friday at Togo’s main stadium, Stade Kegue.

Hosts Togo were thrown out of the tournament on Sunday after two of their players failed the mandatory MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) tests conducted by the tournament’s medical team.

With Togo’s results in the tournament annulled, Burkina Faso soared to the top of Group A, and will be battling the Eaglets at the Stade Kegue in the first semi finals from 5pm Togo time (6pm Nigeria time) on Friday.

Same night, Group B winners Cote d’Ivoire will take on Niger Republic as from 8pm Togo time (9pm Nigeria time).

The winners of the semi finals will battle for the diadem on Wednesday next week at the Stade Kegue, and also qualify for the CAF U17 Cup of Nations billed for 13th -31st March in Morocco.   

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