The contingent of Nigeria’s Flying Eagles departed Nouakchott, capital of Mauritania yesterday following a 1-1 draw with their Mauritanian counterparts in the first leg, final qualifying round for the 2019 Total Africa U-20 Cup of Nations.
Abubakar Ibrahim put Nigeria in front after only seven minutes into the encounter at the Stade Olympique, but the hosts pulled themselves back on level terms in the 11th minute with the equaliser.
The Flying Eagles put up an impressive performance, but the seven-time African champions could not secure a winner, leaving the fixture delicate ahead of the final leg at the Agege Stadium, Lagos on Saturday this week.
Nigeria shot past Guinea Bissau in the earlier round, piping their opponents 1-0 in Calabar following a 2-2 draw in Bissau, while Mauritania eliminated Guinea on away goal rule, winning 1-0 in Nouakchott before losing 2-3 in Conakry.
“It was a tough game, but our boys have the ability to turn the table in Nigeria’s favour in the return leg and qualify for the finals,” Abdulrafiu Yusuf, NFF’s Assistant Director (Technical), who travelled with the team, told thenff.com.
Coach Paul Aigbogun started the encounter with Detan Ogundare, Rabiu Muhammad, Ikouwem Utin (Captain), Ekene Olisema, Valentine Ozornwafor, Jamil Muhammad, Maxwell Effiom, Abubakar Ibrahim, Alhassan Ibrahim, Jesse Akila and Wasiu Alalade. In the second half, Nazifi Yahaya (for Jesse Akila), Adeshina Gata (for Abubakar Ibrahim) and Aniekeme Okon (for Maxwell Effiom) brought fresh impetus into the Nigerian challenge.
Coach Aigbogun told thenff.com: “We went all out for victory, but I must admit the Mauritanians are a good side. We will prepare hard and get the victory we need to qualify in Lagos on Saturday.”The 2019 Total Africa U20 Cup of Nations will be staged in Niger Republic.