U-17 AFCON: Can Nigeria's Golden Eaglets win a third trophy and make the World Cup?

This year's competition features twelve countries. Nigeria, Algeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Senegal, Somalia, Morocco, South Africa, Zambia, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Mali, and South Sudan are among them.

Nigeria's Golden Eaglets got off to a good start, defeating Zambia 1-0 at the Mohamed Hamlaoui Stadium in Constantine on Sunday evening, thanks to Favour Daniel's only goal of the game.

The Golden Eaglets have been assigned to Group B, which includes Zambia, Morocco, and South Africa.

Their Group is considered the ‘group of death’ by bookmakers as it consists of some of the continent’s best producers of young talents.

The most successful teams in the competition are Nigeria, Cameroon, Gambia, Ghana and Mali. They have all won the tournament twice in the past, and Cameroon is the current champion.

However, can the Golden Eaglets win their third title at the 2023 Africa U-17 Cup of Nations in Algeria and qualify for the World Cup, considering the fact that they recently claimed the WAFU B U-17 Championship in Ghana last May?

Golden Eaglets head coach, Nduka Ugbade, recently said that his aim is to qualify for the World Cup and win the U-17 AFCON after preparing for the competition for the past ten months.

“We have been preparing for the past ten months, and we have done so well in Ghana (WAFU B qualifiers). We did very well, coming first and winning the trophy,” Ugbade said.

“We aim to at least qualify for the World Cup and win the trophy if possible.”

Speaking, Engr. Audu Ojo, the head coach of Dawaki Rangers, expressed confidence that the Golden Eaglets would win the U-17 AFCON and qualify for the World Cup.

Ojo, however, cautioned Ugbade’s side not to get carried away because they won their first game.

He also cited how the Super Eagles of Nigeria won all their group-stage matches in the last AFCON tournament in Cameroon but ended up being eliminated from the tournament after losing 1-0 against Tunisia in the round of 16.

“First and foremost, I want to congratulate the boys for winning their first game against Zambia, which is very important in any tournament,” Ojo said.

He added: “I believe if they continue with the fighting spirit they put against Zambia; they can go all the way to qualify as the Group leaders and probably win the competition and qualify for the World Cup that will take place from November this year.

“However, the boys should not be carried away because they won their first game. If you can recall, the senior team [Super Eagles] won all their matches in the group stage in the last AFCON but were eliminated from the competition after losing to Tunisia in the knock-out stage.

“I want to urge the boys to continue to give it their all in their remaining next two games in the group stage, and when they qualify for the knock-out stage, they should avoid wasting chances in front of goal because any little mistake can cost you exiting the competition.

“I wish them all the best in the competition and hope they bring back the trophy to Nigeria.”

The Golden Eaglets will face Morocco in their next fixture at the Stade Mohamed Hamlaoui on Wednesday.

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