Nigeria’s U-17 national team, the Golden Eaglets, braced all odds to qualify for the 2019 CAF U-17 Nations Cup in Tanzania after beating 3-1 on penalties (1-1 at regulation time).

This means that the five time cadet champions stand the chance of representing Africa at next year’s FIFA U-17 World Cup.‘s editor IZUCHUKWU OKOSI in this piece also published in other outlets looks at the takeaways from coach Manu Garba’s team’s outing in Niamey, Niger.

1. Nigerian Teams Improve As Tournaments Progress
The Golden Eaglets started their qualification campaign on a stuttering note as they were defeated 3-2 by Burkina Faso.

However the team bounced back to thrash Cote d’ Ivoire 5-1 then edged past hosts, Niger, 2-1 before the final against the Ghanaians.

In recent memory Nigeria’s teams at major tournaments seemingly grow into it as evidenced at the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations in South Africa where the Super Eagles claimed the title a third time but had few who touted them to win the AFCON.

2. The Eaglets Have Attacking Firepower
Manu Garba’s unknown boys scored 10 goals in four matches (aside the penalty shootout versus Ghana).

Striker Kunle Olusegun scored four goals, a decent number which saw him pick the Top scorers award in Niamey.

Olusegun got a brace in the 3-2 defeat to Burkina Faso and bagged one as the team defeated the Ivorians 5-1. He then scored his fourth against Niger.

It seems whatever the level of opposition, the team have the firepower to navigate their ways to where they want to be.

3.The Eaglets Must Work On Defence
Having been praised for their attacking impetus, the Golden Eaglets must take the stick for their defensive woes.

For a team aiming to conquer Africa and go on to reclaim their place as the best cadet side in the world, conceding six goals in four matches during a regional qualifying series is not good commentary.

Assistant coach of the team, Nduka Ugbade, who was a defender and first player to lift the then U-16 trophy aloft in China 33 years ago must have some tips he could offer for the good of the team in Tanzania.

Some football purists might not mind the defensive setbacks so long the Golden Eaglets outscore their opponents but nonetheless it must be rectified before it becomes a ticking bomb.

4. Good Thinking By CAF, But…

The idea of having regional qualifying campaigns before the U-17 Nations Cup is not a bad idea. It will only mean that the continent are being represented (in theory) at the world stage by teams who have worked hard to reach the milestones.

However the downside to this is the fact that the level and quality of football in some parts of Africa, with due respect to them, is not as good as others.

Had Ghana for example, been handed the chance to fight for one of Africa’s tickets to next year’s FIFA U-17 World Cup, you will be assured that a team with history, experience and talent could fly Africa’s flag in Peru (17 September to 8 October, 2019).

Perhaps the finalists (winners and runners up) in each regions’ finals plus the host country and the best third placed sides should qualify for the main tournament in order to have a helluva of a tournament that will produce Africa’s representatives.

By Izuchukwu Okosi