U17 AFCON: Nigeria Stage Epic Comeback to Qualify for the Quarter-Finals

U17 AFCON: Nigeria Stage Epic Comeback to Qualify for the Quarter-Finals
The Golden Eaglets celebrate their win against South Africa.

The Nigeria U17 national team, aka the Golden Eaglets, were in action on Saturday night at the Chahid Hamlaoui Stadium in Constantine, Algeria.

The Golden Eaglets came into the game after a 1-0 loss to Morocco in their third matchup in Group B. Needing three points to qualify for the quarter-finals, the young Nigerians dug deep to trounce the Amajimbos 3-2 in an absorbing U17 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) fixture.

Nigeria came back from behind twice in the 2023 CAF U-17 Africa Cup of Nations to take the lead and edge out South Africa 3-2 in Constantine on Saturday night. The win ensures their safe passage into the quarter-finals of the TotalEnergies U17 Africa Cup of Nations in Algeria.

Although Abubakar Abdullahi was wasteful in front of the goal in the game, he scored the winner for the Golden Eaglets to grab the maximum points. Thanks to the three points, Nigeria finished second in Group B behind Morocco.

The loss leaves South Africa in third place. They must wait for the result from the Group C matchup between Cameroon and Burkina Faso on Sunday to go their way to sneak into the last eight as one of the two best third-placed teams in the competition.

Speaking to CAFonline after the match, the coach of Golden Eaglets said:

“It was a really tough match because South Africa is a really good team and they gave us a tough time. They have three players that are really good; Mabena (Siyabonga), Mkhawana (Vicky) and Dokunmu (Michael). They are very talented players and I was honestly scared of them at first.”

The Golden Eaglets had struggled to finish the many chances they created in their previous games ahead of the South Africa fixture. The coach revealed how his team overcame the problem.

“We worked a bit in training and we did some corrections. We realized that it was purely psychological and we talked to the players and we saw an improvement today. We might have conceded two but I am glad we scored three,” said the U17 Golden Eaglets coach.

How Nigeria Trounced South Africa in the U17 AFCON

The match got underway with South Africa trying to create chances with quick play. The goal came about after an interception from the Nigeria defence led to a corner in the 6th minute. Gabriel Amato floated the corner in, with Waylon's attempt coming off the post and landing the way of Vicky Mkhawana. The midfielder drilled low into the net to make it 1-0 for the Amajimbos.

Nigeria had a chance a few moments later, but Abdullahi could not provide the finishing touch.

The Golden Eaglets didn't give up, piling pressure for an equalizer. Light Ike hit a low shot in the 25th minute, but it went straight to the palms of Gennaro Johnson.

Nigeria's constant pressure camped the South Africans in their own half, forcing them to defend deep as the Eaglets sought parity. Ugbade's boys hit shots from all angles, but Johnson was equal to the tasks at the goalpost.

Finally, Charles Agada restored parity with a fine header from Lawali's cross in the 33rd minute.

With the score 1-1, both teams looked to take the lead going into half-time. South Africa's persistence paid off in the first half added time as Siyabonga Mabena cut through the Golden Eaglets' defence to make it 2-1 to South Africa at half-time.

However, the lead didn't last long. The second half resumed, and seconds into proceedings, the Golden Eaglets drew level when Light Eke tapped home inside the box after a cross from Agada.

10 minutes later, the Golden Eaglets took the lead for the first time in the game after some sweet exchange of passes from Ugbade's boys. Abdullahi made good use of Emmanuel Michael's cross into the danger area, sneaking between two defenders to tuck the ball home.

The South Africans tried hard to get a goal, but the Golden Eaglets locked up the shop. In one of the ensuing attacks, Abdullahi had a shot come off the bar as South Africa left spaces in behind.

In the 81st minute, the electrifying Eke dribbled, twisted and turned the South African defence before unleashing a shot at goal. Unfortunately for the youngster, the ball cannoned off the bar.

The Golden Eaglets continued searching for the fourth goal to put the result beyond a reasonable doubt. They failed to do so but held in to win the match and progress into the U17 AFCON quarter-finals.

Nigeria will now meet the runner-up from Group C in the quarter-finals.

This article was most recently revised and updated 10 months ago

Chandan is a passionate writer, editor, and marketer with a love for football. He has bylines in leading online publications and has worked with renowned sports brands like The Olympics, Fox Sports Asia, and the Indian Super League (ISL). As for the unimpressive part, he loves Chelsea.