Guinea and Nigeria battled out a scoreless 90 minutes in the first semi-final of the 13th Africa U17 Cup of Nations in Tanzania, before a marathon penalty shoot-out that ended when Ogaga Oduko heaved his effort sky-high to send the Junior Syli Nationale into Sunday’s final.
Characteristically, the Eaglets Class of 2019 fluffed gilt-edged opportunities that would have long settled the encounter before the end of regulation time, and paid dearly in the lottery of penalty kicks as they would be battling for the bronze instead of the gold medals.
Forward Wisdom Ubani had two opportunities to put the Eaglets ahead in the first half, but he delayed his decision each time and the chances went away. Guinea came close through Bah Algassime and Toure Momo but also could not utilize the openings.
Seven minutes into the second half, Ubani fluffed another golden opportunity when it appeared easier to put the ball in the net, and three minutes later, Fawaz Abdullahi’s dipping shot flew narrowly over the sticks.
On the hour, Algassime rocked goalkeeper Sunday Stephen’s upright from long range, and Toure Alya came close in the 66th minute as he hit the bar from a corner. In the 72nd minute, Ubani was clever to create an opening for himself, only to waste the same.
Three minutes later, with goalkeeper Camara Sekou wrong-footed, Ubani’s 25 –yard free-kick was deflected and kissed the crossbar. Fawaz Abdullahi and Ogaga Oduko had chances later on, but the two teams would only be separated by sudden death penalties.
Bangoura Alya, Toure Alya, Conte Aboubacar, Bangoura Sekou, Keita Ahmed, Bangoura Mahmoud, Bah Algassime, Fofana Ibrahima, Dado Ibrahima and Soumah Mohamed made no mistake from the spot, while Nigeria’s Ogaga Oduko lost his kick after Ibraheem Jabaar, David Ishaya, Olakunle Olusegun, Clement Ikenna, Olatomi Olaniyan, Shedrack Tanko, Fawaz Abdullahi, Wisdom Ubani and Samson Tijani had scored.
The result means Nigeria, already with a ticket to the FIFA U17 World Cup finals holding in Brazil later this year, will battle for the third place at this tournament on Saturday.