Flying Eagles will not win an eighth U-20 AFCON crown in Niger after they lost 3-4 on penalties to Mali in Wednesday’s semifinal. Both teams were tied on 1-1 after extra-time.
Valentine Uzornwafor and Okon Aniekeme lost their penalties in the shootout for Mali to go through to only their second final of this U20 championship.
It was a sweet revenge for the Malians who had lost to Nigeria in the semifinal of the U20 WAFU Cup in Togo in December.
The Flying Eagles will now play the losers’ final on Saturday.
Mali opened scoring in the 78th minute when Mali sliced through the Flying Eagles defence to release Mamadou Troare who fired past a stranded goalkeeper Olawale Oremade.
However, Nigeria drew level four minutes from time when substitute Pascal Durugbor thundered home a loose ball inside the box past Mali goalkeeper Koita.
The Flying Eagles started brightly, before Mali gradually warmed up into the game to make it more of a contest.
The speed and skills of the Nigerians were canceled out by the physicality of the bigger-looking Malians.
There were no real chances by either side in extratime, before the lottery of the penalty shootout.