- The Golden Eaglets of Nigeria will make a record tenth appearance at this month’s U17 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) tournament in Algeria, hoping to win the tournament for the first time since 2007.
- The West Africans are hoping to rise to the occasion again, to live expectations of over 200 millions Nigerians across the World by going all the way to the top of African youth football.
Nigeria achieved qualification for this edition of the tournament after securing a 3-1 victory against Cote D’Ivoire in the semi-final of the WAFU B.
They went on to beat Burkina Faso 2-1 in the final to ensure they get to Algeria with the champions status.
The two-time champions are in Group B, alongside Morocco plus COSAFA duo Zambia and South Africa.
Their Group is considered ‘group of death’ by bookmakers as it consists of of some of the continents best producers of young talents.
Nigeria’s group games will be played in Algeria’s football loving city, Constantine.
- Nigeria Vs Zambia (30/04/2023 – 17h00 local time – Mohamed Hamlaoui Stadium, Constantine)
- Nigeria Vs Morocco (03/05/2023 – 17h00 local time – Mohamed Hamlaoui Stadium, Constantine)
- South Africa Vs Nigeria (06/05/2023 – 20h00 local time – Mohamed Hamlaoui Stadium, Constantine)
Nduka Ugbade will lead Nigeria during this edition of the tournament.
The 53-year-old retired defender for the Super Eagles and a number of clubs at home and abroad is no stranger in the tournament. He was his country’s U-17 deputy coach between 2011-2013.
This time around, the former Remo Stars and Mountain of Fire Ministry FC trainer is the head coach of his country.
Nduka led Nigeria to the WAFU B triumph and will be hoping to reproduce the performance in Algeria.
He has assembled a squad of mostly home-based players for their preparations camp in the build up to the tournament.
The coach has a clear picture of what he expects from his team during the tournament.
Nduka’s thoughts about the group:
“It’s quite interesting. We have always been waiting for this moment. We will face every team as they come. One after the other. We are not talking about winning the AFCON. We are talking and planning about winning each match. One after the other. We will fight. That’s most probably the toughest group. I have an idea of West, South, North and East African football. These are great nations but we are going to prepare ourselves for the onslaught. everyone of those teams will feel Nigeria. We have respect and a little fear knowing that we can lose. So with that we have to prepare so it doesn’t come to pass losing,” Nduka said.
Players to follow
Left-back Emmanuel Michael will be one of his country’s most-important player at the tournament.
The teenager’s aptitude in dead-ball execution inspired Nigeria’s WAFU B success last June in Ghana.
The Simoiben FC full-back won ‘Man of the Match’ in three games during the tournament, including the semi-final triumph against Cote D’Ivoire, a game in which he scored two free-kicks to take his tally to three.
Goalkeeper Richard Odoh was the ‘man of the match’ in the 2-1 win against Burkina Faso in the final of the WAFU B tournament.
His exploits over the course of the tournament was pivotal for his country across the entire competition.
The 16-year-ols is also expected to play a key role for his country during the tournament.
A bulk of the players selected are from clubs in the different tiers of Nigerian football.
These local clubs in amateur competitions develop talents and transfer them to the higher tier championship clubs or send them abroad.
Among the dominant local clubs is Enyimba international.
The Peoples’ Elephant as they are popularly known are winners of the CAF Champions League in 2003 and 2004 is one of the most followed clubs in Nigeria.
Over the years, Enyimba like other clubs have produced players for the U17 national teams through the efforts of their feeder teams.