Abuja – Football enthusiasts have urged the Nigerian under-17 men football team to stay focused and be cautious as they prepare for the final match of the CAF U-17 Championship in Morocco.
The Nigerian side beat their Tunisian counterparts 4-2 in the semi-finals on Wednesday in Marrakech, Morocco to qualify for Saturday’s final match.
They will now meet the Baby Elephants of Cote d’Ivoire, who beat them 1-0 earlier in a first round group match.
A cross-section of the enthusiasts, who spoke in separate interviews by telephone, hailed the Golden Eaglets for their victory against the Tunisians.
They said the team’s performance was impressive, but urged the Eaglets to be more focused and be cautious as they prepare for the final match.
Mr Moroof Oluwa, the Secretary-General, Nigeria Referees Association (NRA), said: “The Golden Eaglets showed character and strength today (Wednesday).
“They were technically sound and impressive all-round, especially in the attack.
“However, they must not be over-confident as they go into their final game against Cote d’Ivoire whom they lost 0-1 to in their group game.
“With concentration and focus, I believe this team is capable of breaking down the defence of a compact side like Cote d’Ivoire who like to dominate the game from the midfield,’’ he said.
Mrs Jamila Buhari, a retired female referee, was also full of praise for the team’s performance.
She, however, urged the players not to allow complacency which crept in during their group game with the Ivorians to rear its head again.
“This is an opportunity to correct the mistakes of that game and prove to the Ivorians that their victory then was indeed a fluke,’’ she said.
Ben Odey, a FIFA-badged referee, said he was impressed with the way the Eaglets played as a team.
“This kind of team spirit is what is needed if they intend to win the trophy.
“They were well-organised, balanced and efficient in their game. If they face the Ivorians this same way, then victory is sure,’’ he said.
Also an official of Nigeria Football Association (NFA) on Wednesday urged the Golden Eaglets to avenge their 1-0 defeat by the Baby Elephants of Cote d’ Ivoire in Morocco..
Mr Musa Amadu, the Secretary- General of NFA, said the opportunity had come for the Eaglets to correct the mistakes of the earlier encounter with the Ivorians.
“Am delighted that we have qualified for the final of this edition of the CAF U-17 championship.
“It has given our boys the opportunity to avenge the 1-0 loss we suffered in the group stage against Cote d’ Ivoire.
“We are looking forward to the final on Saturday with a lot of expectation for our boys to be crowned African champions,’’ Amadu said.
The NFA scribe further said that for success to be achieved, the technical crew must block the loopholes that led to the defeat.
Amadu said it would be unacceptable if the Ivorians beat the Eaglets the second time in the championship.
“It’s obvious that in the first game there are lots of lessons to be learnt.
“We didn’t take the chances we created as they came and the Ivorians capitalised on that to notch their goal.
“Am sure that the technical crew must have looked at the game and I am sure they knowwhat to do.
“I am confident that we will win against the Ivorians come Saturday,’’ he said.
Nigeria, Cote d’ Ivoire, Morocco and Tunisia, will represent Africa at the FIFA U-17 World Cup in Dubai.
The Ivorians had defeated hosts Morocco 2-1 in the first semi-final match played on Tuesday to set up the final clash with Nigeria.
Hosts Morocco and Tunisia will play in the third- and fourth-place match.(NAN)