Manu Garba ecstatic about Niger win, calls for improvement

Manu Garba, coach of Nigeria's boys U-17 team believes his team is improving with every game at the WAFU B tournament in Ghana, after a crucial win in their game against Niger Republic.

The Golden Eaglets claimed a crucial 1-0 victory over the Junior Mena of Niger on Sunday in their second group game of the WAFU B tournament. This tightly contested match took place at the University Stadium in Accra.

Manu Garba's troops had to weather a barrage of Nigerien attacks in the closing stages of the game to secure their win.

The game's only goal came in the 31st minute when Nigeria's striker Rapha Adams capitalised on a goalmouth scramble to head the ball into the net.

Manu Garba ecstatic about Niger win
Photo by CAF media

The goal was a result of persistent pressure from the Golden Eaglets, who had been probing the Nigerien defence from the onset. M

Despite the victory, Nigeria's head coach Manu Garba expressed mixed feelings about the team’s performance.

 “In our last, we didn't do well with the finishing. We expected them to score at least three goals,” Garba commented. 

His assessment pointed to the numerous missed opportunities that could have put the game beyond doubt much earlier. 

The team’s inability to convert more of their chances remains a point of concern as they progress in the tournament and this has Manu worried.

The match was not without its challenges.

 An early injury and a red card significantly impacted Nigeria's game plan. The red card, which forced Nigeria to play with ten men for the majority of the match, was a turning point. 

“As I previously stated, the first injury and red card impacted the game plan because they played 10 versus 11 for the majority of the game. One of our strikers was forced to play in the middle, which had a significant impact on our play,” Garba explained. 

This reshuffling disrupted the team's rhythm and made their task more arduous.

Defensive discipline

Despite these setbacks, the Golden Eaglets showcased remarkable defensive resilience. The backline, marshalled effectively, held firm against Niger’s attempts to find an equaliser.

Goalkeeper Chinedu Dominic also made some crucial saves, ensuring that Nigeria maintained their slender lead. 

Chinedu Sylvester and Daniel Mendie were resilient as Niger took the initiative when the Eaglets went down to 10 men.

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Photo by CAF media

The team's ability to absorb pressure and maintain composure under duress was a testament to their tactical discipline and mental toughness.

With this victory, Nigeria now sit second in the group on goal difference, tied on four points with Burkina Faso. 

The competition in Group B is fierce, and every point is crucial. Coach Manu Garba remains optimistic about his team's prospects, highlighting their ambition and determination to progress further in the tournament to retain the title they won two years ago.

“We came to Ghana to win every match, and the next one will be no different. We are confident that if we win our next match, we will advance to the knockout stage, which is the semi-finals,” he stated.

Togo won’t be a walk in the park

Looking ahead, the Golden Eaglets are set to face the Junior Hawks of Togo in their final group match. 

Garba emphasized the importance of not underestimating their opponents while maintaining a focused approach. 

“What we are aiming for is the maximum three points against the Togolese national team. We won't underestimate them or overrate them, but we'll come out with the maximum three points,” he asserted.

The Togolese are bottom of the table and are effectively out of the tournament, but Nigeria will have to be wary because Togo will like to go out on a high.

The Golden Eaglets' victory over Niger has set a positive tone for their campaign in the WAFU B tournament. Despite some areas needing improvement, the team’s resilience and tactical adaptability have been commendable.

Manu Garba has been there before, and understands what the objectives are for his team.

He was in charge of the Eaglets when they won the FIFA U-17 World Cup in 2013 in the UAE.

That team produced the likes of Kelechi Iheanacho, Isaac Success and Taiwo Awoniyi who have gone on to progress to the Super Eagles.

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Photo by Icon Sport

Manu has been through this road, and will hope to add another cap to his feather, but he has to avoid defeat against Togo to be sure of progress to the next round.

As the team prepares for their decisive match against Togo, they carry the hopes of a nation eager for success after the disappointment of missing out on the last FIFA U-17 World Cup.

The road to the knock-out stage is within reach, and with the right combination of skill, strategy, and determination, the Golden Eaglets are poised to make a significant impact in the tournament.

 The journey continues with high stakes and the promise of glory on the horizon.

Garba’s ultimate goal is to qualify for the U-17 Africa Cup of Nations and win the title but first, there’s the bit about getting one over Togo and qualifying for the semi-finals of the WAFU B U-17

Manu Garba ecstatic about Niger win, calls for improvement
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)