Coach Nduka Ugbade led Golden Eaglets of Nigeria kicked off the U-17 Africa Cup of Nations tournament with a win against Zambia at the Stade Mohammed Hamlaou in Constantine, Algeria on Sunday and will face Morocco next.
The Nigeria team had control of the game keeping possession and creating multiple chances in the early stage of the match which almost paid off in the 13 minute as Nigeria put the ball behind the Zambian net, but Abubakar Abdullahi was adjudged offside before the finish was struck.
Nigeria left back Emmanuel Michael was impressive joining the attack from the wing back position sustaining the momentum off their tactical play.
Zambia goalkeeper Shadrack Kalyati was brilliant making good saves including an opportunity from Nigeria’s Abdullahi after Michael’s cross. He didn’t stop at that as he made another save from Precious Williams.
The game went on a break which at the restart in the second Abdullahi continued his impressive performance with a header which went wide.
The Eaglets’ pressured effort finally paid off in the 76th minute with a perfect Daniel Favour delivering the shot that separated Nigeria with edge over Zambia to score for Nigeria.
Nduka Ugbade led boys fought to extend the lead deep at the twilight of the match with ‘danger man’ Abdullahi pulled down in the Zambia goal box area. Light Eke unfortunately played the penalty which was saved by Junior Chipolopolo’s goalkeeper Kalyati.
Meanwhile, Ugbade has admitted the Zambians were challenging to beat considering the Junior Chipolopolo performance in the first game.
“Most of the time, for the young teams, the most important thing is psychology. Not physicality, tactics or anything. Winning the first game gives us a mental edge, and psychologically, we are better than we started,” Ugbade said.
“African football has really developed, and teams are strong now, especially in Youth football. We played a very tough game against Zambia and anyone could have won. Of course, there were some mistakes, and you will definitely have many of them at this stage of development,”
“We created lots of chances that we couldn’t finish, and some passes were not correct and many more errors. But the good thing is that we keep improving.
“Of course, we have the targets to win, but we need to go a step at a time. We focus on the next math, and if we win, we are in the quarters. We get to the quarters, we win, and we are in the World Cup. The former Nigeria international said, as quoted by CAFonline.
The five time winners of the U-17 World Cup will play Morocco in the next match Wednesday which Ugbade has expressed concern over their next opponent despite the huge psychology of winning the first game. He feels the North African on paper looks confident having secured three points and two goals in their first match which Nigeria is currently second in the group.