Nigeria’s Golden Eaglets secure U-17 AFCON qualification with late drama

In a thrilling encounter at the University Stadium in Ghana, Nigeria's U-17 men's team, the Golden Eaglets, secured their qualification for the 2025 U-17 Africa Cup of Nations in Ivory Coast with a dramatic victory over hosts Ghana in the third-place playoff.

The match, filled with excitement and tension, saw both teams fiercely contesting from the outset as they sought to finish on the podium.

Imrana celebrates his goal against Ghana

Nigeria, aiming to replicate their previous tournament success, took the lead early in the 9th minute when Imrana Muhammad capitalised on a goalmouth scramble to find the back of the net.

However, the spirited response from the Black Starlets saw them equalise just ten minutes later, courtesy of an own goal inadvertently conceded by a Nigerian defender.

The pendulum swung in Ghana's favor as they seized the lead for the first time in the 27th minute, with Harve Gbafa capitalising on a defensive error to beat goalkeeper Dominic Chinedu.

Undeterred, the Golden Eaglets fought back, with Abdulmuiz Adeleke leveling the scoreline four minutes before halftime, nodding in a well-delivered cross from John Ogwuche.

The second half witnessed continued attacking exchanges, with both teams displaying flair and determination.

As the match seemed destined for a penalty shootout, Adeleke emerged as the hero in added time.

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His initial long-range effort struck the upright, but with Ghana failing to clear their lines, he capitalised on the rebound to secure a dramatic 3-2 victory for Nigeria and ensure their place in next year's continental finals.

The stakes were heightened by the recent announcement from CAF, granting hosting rights of the U-17 AFCON to Ivory Coast.

This decision provided an additional avenue for qualification, intensifying the significance of the third-place playoff.

With the host nation guaranteed a slot, Burkina Faso and the third-placed team from the playoff, regardless of the final result, secured berths in the tournament in Abidjan.

Nigeria's path at the 2024 WAFU B tournament

Leading up to their U-17 Africa Cup of Nations qualification, Nigeria navigated through a challenging campaign at the 2024 WAFU B tournament.

The Golden Eaglets displayed resilience and determination in the group stage, securing a draw against Burkina Faso and victories over Niger and Togo to advance to the knockout rounds.

Despite a narrow defeat to Ivory Coast in the semi-finals, Nigeria bounced back with an impressive performance in the third-place playoff against Ghana, ultimately emerging victorious and sealing their place in the continental finals.

Golden Eaglets line-up against Black Starlets

Results

Group games

Burkina Faso 0-0 Nigeria

Nigeria 1-0 Niger

Togo 0-3 Nigeria

Semi-final

Nigeria 0-1 Ivory Coast

Third place game

Ghana 2-3 Nigeria

Golden Eaglets line-up

Dominic Chinedu (Goalkeeper) Chika Sylvester, Chibuike Okorie, Destiny Samuel, Abdulwaris Yunus, Boluwatife Ekishola, John Ogwuche, Cletus Simon (captain), Edward Ochigbo, Abdulmuiz Adeleke. Imrana Muhammad

Substitutes

Adekunle Adedigba, Qurib Adetola, Oreoluwa Agbenla,, Daniel Ariehi, Chinedu Chike, Abdulmuiz Oladimeji

Nigeria’s Golden Eaglets secure U-17 AFCON qualification with late drama
Andrew Randa

Andrew Randa is a veteran Nigerian sports journalist with over 20 years of experience covering the beautiful game across Africa. Andrew served as a Media Officer for Nigeria's U-20 Men's National Team for three years, offering a unique perspective on the future stars of Nigerian football.

Beyond reporting, Andrew is a pioneer in sports graphics creation within Nigeria. His expertise extends to sports kit design, making him a true multi-faceted talent in the African sports landscape.

Andrew's experience is vast, with collaborations encompassing prestigious names like Kickoff, SuperSport, the NFF (Nigeria Football Federation), and the NPFL (Nigeria Professional Football League)