Nigeria’s cadet national team, Golden Eaglets’ victory in the final of the African U-17 Cup of Nations zonal qualifiers has left the opponents coach, Karim Zito lamenting how the new rules have limited West Africa’s chances in the competition.
Reports gathered by footballlive.ng reveal that Zito lamented after his side fell 3-1 on penalties to the Eaglets, following a 1-1 draw at regulation time during Saturday’s final.
Zito, who could not guide Ghana’s Black Starlets to victory against their eternal rivals, worried over the limitations that restrict the West Coast zone that has many of the best cadet national teams to only one slot.
Zito noted that Nigeria, Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso and Niger Republic all have high pedigrees at the FIFA U17 World Cup, but now only one of them is allowed by the new rules to scale through.
A pulsating encounter at Stade General Seyni Kountche saw the Starlets shoot into the lead in the 54th minute, but the Eaglets equalized minutes later when Akinkunmi Amoo finished brilliantly.
Both teams tried hard but failed to get the winner, and the game had to go into penalties. During which Samson Tijani, Muhammad Ibrahim and David Ishaya scored for Nigeria.
Although Amoo missed, the Eaglets were winners, as the Ghanaians fluffed a kick, while Nigeria’s goalkeeper, John Amah saved one, and there was no need for the final kicks as the Eaglets were by then unassailable.
The Eaglets’ victory was confirmation of Nigeria’s edge over Ghana in cadet football, with five world titles to the Starlets’ two.
It was also somewhat sweet revenge for Ghana’s victory in the final of the maiden edition of the Africa U17 Cup of Nations in Mali 23 years ago, but Zito is lamenting differently.
CAF early this year changed the mode of qualification to the Africa Junior Championships from and all-play-all qualifiers into zonal tournaments.
However, the new format has in particular restricted the number of West African teams, though they have in the past years dominated the youth tournaments both at continental and the world stage.
Zito declared: “West Africa is holding Africa now in terms of youth development. Now there is no Niger, there is no Ghana, there is no Côte d’Ivoire.
“It means now, Africa has opted for quantity and not quality so they should look into this mode. It is not the best.
“Because when you go to the World Cup, it is Africa. So they should go back and look at the mode of qualification. It is not the right thing.”