Ten-man Nigeria team on Wednesday qualified for the FIFA U20 World Cup in New Zealand after they defeated Congo 4-1 at the Leopold Sedar Senghor Stadium, Dakar in their second match at the ongoing Africa Youth Championship in Senegal.
A brace from team captain Musa Muhammed and a goal each from Ifeanyi Matthew and Taiwo Awoniyi ensured that the Flying Eagles qualified for their sixth consecutive World Cup since 2005.
The six-time African champions have qualified 10 times; 1983, 1985, 1987, 1989, 1999, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2013, and Wednesday’s win ensured that they would be at the world event for the 11th time.
Congo had defeated Nigeria 1-0 in the final of the 2007 AYC, to win their first continental title and the Flying Eagles had gone into the match seeking revenge over the young Leopards.
A 27th minute red card to goalkeeper Joshua Enaholo seemed to have given the Congolese an advantage which they could not make count as Nigeria easily led with two goals in the first half before completing the job in the second half.
Coach Manu Garba named an unchanged side from the side which defeated Senegal 3-1 on Sunday in their opening match.
Nigeria opened scoring in the fifth minute through Matthew. And despite their numerical disadvantage, Nigeria doubled their lead in the 47th minute from the penalty spot through Muhammed after Awoniyi had been fouled by a Congolese defender.
Nigeria went three goals up in the 54th minute through Muhammed from the penalty spot again after Awoniyi was fouled again.
Congo reduced the deficit eight minutes later through Ganvoula Mboussy after the Nigerian defence slipped. But Awoniyi made his pressure count when he scored from an individual effort in the 87th minute to ensure Nigeria’s qualification was sealed.
In Abuja, out-of-contract Super Eagles coach, Stephen Keshi, said on Wednesday that he was ready to work with the Nigeria Football Federation as soon as contract issues are resolved.
Keshi met with the NFF officials on Wednesday but it was not clear if both parties eventually agreed on their respective terms at the end of the day. One witness at the venue alleged that Keshi actually stormed out of the room. The PUNCH could not confirm that last night.
Keshi said, “I can’t turn my back on Nigeria; I’m ready to work with the NFF in any role I’m offered. I’m confident the contract problems will be resolved soon.”
NFF General Secretary, Musa Ahmadu, told journalists that nobody was forcing Keshi on the NFF as Nigeria coach. He said the football body was offering Keshi the job based on his achievement.
“No one can force the servant on the master; we’re not compelled to hire anyone as Super Eagles coach. Keshi is being considered for the job because he’s a Nigerian and he has achieved with the team,” Ahmadu said.
“The ruling of the Court of Arbitration for Sport does not compel the NFF to hire Keshi. We have started paying him his outstanding salary; we’re paying him in instalment, and we’ve paid the first instalment.” Story by Ghana/Joy Sports
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