A 90th minute strike from Ivory Coast’s Dogbole Niangbo was all the Junior Elephants needed to end Nigeria’s Golden Eaglets’ 28-game unbeaten run and also revive their hope of advancing to the semi-finals of the Africa U-17 Championship in Morocco.
Nigeria had steamrolled the Black Starlets of Ghana 6-1 in their first match on Sunday, while Ivory Coast had played a 1-1 draw with DR Congo. So, the Eaglets were naturally favourites before Wednesday’s game, but they got more than they bargained for.
The Ivorians adopted a defensive play, relying on occasional counter-attacks as they were mindful of what the Nigerians could do. But the Eaglets on their part failed to utilise the few chances that came their way, giving their opponents reasons to be more confident. Each side hit the woodwork twice and anyone of them could have taken the lead in the second half.
The events that led to the goal saw a Nigeria defender fail to stay on his feet while chasing a clearance and as he fell the Ivorian player quickly sent a long ball into the box which the keeper Adeyinka Adewale did not deal with and as the Nigerians tried to stop Kouassi Begbin scoring he squared for Niangbo to slot home.
Nigeria next face DR Congo in their last group match, while Ivory Coast will meet Ghana. Both games will be played simultaneously on Saturday.
Ivory Coast now have four points, while Nigeria have three. The semi-finalists in the tournament will qualify for the FIFA U-17 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates in October.
Hosts Morocco joined Tunisia in securing qualification for the semi-finals after beating Botswana 3-0 on Tuesday in Casablanca. The two North African sides will meet on Friday to decide first and second in Group A while Botswana and Gabon will play each other for pride before heading home.