By Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (April 30th 2023)
Golden Eaglets’ Favour is the Difference
Group B kicked off in the historic city of Constantine tonight with the most successful African team at this level – world actually – Nigeria defeating Ian Bakala’s Zambia 1-0 thanks to Favour Daniels’ 76th minute strike.
Morocco and South Africa play later tonight. Zambia, who were fresh from a 4-2 warm up win against Sénégal, was deservedly beaten by the five times Under-17 World Cup winners. . Nigeria is coached by the 1985 Under-17 World Cup winner, Nduka Anthony Ugbade. The former defender won the 1994 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON). Ugbade was a member of the great Super Eagles team of the mid-1990s.
Meanwhile, Bakala has work to do as Zambia failed to convert their chances even though Nigeria created far more and deserved a more comfortable win as international tournament football returned to the historic city of Constantine.
Constantine is mix of old and new. Algeria played an important part in the Roman Empire’s spread into Northern Africa and its anti-colonial struggle saw the emergence of modern liberation football – Constantine’s stadium is named for an icon of its independence struggle. Mohamed Chahid Hamlaoui was a hero of Algeria’s Front de Libération Nationale (FLN – National Liberation Front). Hamlaoui – real name Slimane Daoudi – was killed in a shootout in Constantine on June 8th 1960. He was just 25.
Hamlaoui joined Algeria’s independence struggle as a teenager and quickly gained a reputation as a renowned and gifted freedom fighter. The stadium that bears his name hosted its first match in April 1974. Four years later Constantine welcomed Congo (the Republic of) in its first international match at the stadium.
Tonight African tournament football returned to the stadium for the first time since the recent African Nations Championship (CHAN) with the Under-17 Africa Cup of Nations.
Nigeria’s profligate finishing concerned Ugbade, who dedicated the win to the victims of the Gabon Plane Crash (see Class), which will be published soon. Abubaker Abdullahi posed a constant threat, but failed to open his account. He put the ball in the back of Shadrick Kalyati’s net after 13 minutes, but he as several feet offside. Kalyati produced a double save to deny Abdullahi from close range, but the striker’s follow-up effort was tame.
Zambia created chances too, but they too failed to benefit. There were penalty appeals turned away and both sides hit the woodwork, through Precious Williams and Emmanuel Mwanza.
Ugbade is no stranger to the demands of youth football as he is a previous winner of the Under-17 World Cup as a player in 1985.
Abdullahi went close with a header midway through the second half – he had a penalty appeal rejected in the opening minutes of the match after going to ground after a challenge by Sekanji Siame, but it remained scoreless until 76 minutes. Zambia also had penalty appeals turned down.
Favour Daniel’s shot eluded Zambian goalkeeper, Shadrick Kalyati to give Nigeria a deserved lead. It had followed a clear penalty in the build-up for handball from Abdullahi’s shot, but Nigerian complaints were understandably cut short as it broke to Daniel who scored. It was the second time the Golden Eaglets had put the ball in the net. Abdullahi’s strike after 13 minutes had been rightly disallowed for offside.
Nigeria should have doubled their lead from the spot after 2 minutes of added time. Abdullahi was bundled over in the box by David Hamansenya, who was shown a yellow card. Substitute, Light Eke’s effort was so tame that Kalyati was able to hold on to the ball when he saved it to his left.