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U-17 AFCON

A bridge too far! How Golden Eaglets missed all- U-17 Afcon and World Cup ticket

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Burkina Faso’s Young Etalons took the few opportunities that came their way to defeat Nigeria 2-1 in a gritty Africa U17 Cup quarter-final duel in Algiers on Thursday.

Defeat meant elimination from the tournament, and end to a FIFA World Cup ticket ambition, for the five-time world champions who created far more opportunities but were either denied by the sticks or by the brilliant goalkeeper Isidore.

Charles Agada, who scored Nigeria’s first goal against South Africa in their last group phase in Constantine on Saturday, wasted an opportunity as early as the second minute, and Abubakar Abdullahi, another scorer from the 3-2 defeat of South Africa, hit a scorching shot that rocked the crossbar with seven minutes gone.

Agada also hit the upright from a tussle inside the box on the quarter-hour, and was then denied by the opposing goalkeeper with seven minutes left in the first period.

In the 40th minute, Jeremiah Olaleke saved the Eaglets’ blushes by heading the ball away on the goal-line with goalkeeper Richard Odoh stranded, but the same player was culpable when his howler inside the box, after Odoh had parried an inswinger, let in Aboubacar Camara to put Burkina Faso ahead on the dot of half time.

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Eleven minutes into the second half, the Young Etalons were further ahead when Camara slotted past Odoh from the penalty spot following a foul on Souleymane Alio – the player who scored two goals against Cameroon to dump out the Cup holders and get the Burkinabes to the last eight.

Abubakar Abdullahi pulled one back for Nigeria in the 67th minute, after good work from the left by Favour Daniel and Emmanuel Michael. But it all proved a bridge too far as the Burkinabes held on to claim a famous victory, and a place in the AFCON semi finals and the FIFA World Cup.   

Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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