Seven-time champions Flying Eagles will on Saturday (today) battle South Africa’s Amajita in the third-place match of the 2019 Africa U-20 Cup of Nations at the Stade Général Seyni Kountché, Niamey.
Both sides are meeting for the second time in the competition, having played a goalless draw in their Group A game in Niamey.
The Nigerians lost their semi-final tie to Mali 4-3 on penalties after full and extra time ended 1-1 in an explosive encounter on Wednesday.
Mamadou Traore broke the deadlock for Mali on 77 minutes with a fierce drive inside the area from Hadji Drame’s clever through ball.
The lead lasted for nine minutes before substitute Paschal Durugbor blasted in the equaliser to force the match into extra time and penalties.
In the penalty shootout, Nigeria’s Valentine Ozornwafor and Aniekeme Okon both missed from the spot while Mali’s Boubacar Traore saw his effort saved by Olawale Oremade.
But coach Paul Aigbogun said his team was only unlucky, but against South Africa on Saturday, his wards will shake off the loss and play with pride.
“It was a very difficult match against Mali and we fought as it should but unfortunately for us Mali won. We must now focus on the game at hand. I’m proud of the boys and what they have achieved,” he said.
The Flying Eagles topped Group A after 2-0 and 1-0 wins against Burundi and hosts Niger respectively, and a 0-0 draw against Amajita, who placed second.
Meanwhile, South Africa head coach Thabo Senong is expecting a difficult match against Nigeria but is optimistic they will come out with a positive result.
The Amajita suffered a 1-0 defeat to Senegal in their semi-final fixture at the Seyni Kountche Stadium on Wednesday , following an own-goal which came off defender Givemore Khupe in the 73rd minute.
“We played a 0-0 draw the last time we played Nigeria in our Group A encounter,” Senong told reporters.
“Every game we participate in we always approach it with the intent of winning it. The same attitude will be applied in our 3rd place play-off match against Nigeria.”
Mali will face Senegal on Sunday in the final and according to Senegal head coach, Youssouph Dabo, the match will be tough.
“Facing Mali will be a different match because it is a final. We had beaten them in the first game but I said it after that game that they can go far so I am not surprised to see them in the final,” Dabo said.
The last four teams in the competition have qualified for the 2019 U-20 World Cup in Poland.