Assistant technical director of Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), Abdulrafiu Yusuf has stated appreciation with the 1-1 draw pulled off by the country’s youth national team, Flying Eagles, in Saturday’s first leg of their African U-20 Nations Cup final qualifier away to Mauritania.
Although many Nigerian believe the Flying Eagles should have carried the day in Nouakchott, since they have a better pedigree in the competition, insists Coach Paul Aigbogun’s lads gave their best.
He enthused that Aigbogun’s wards will do even better during the second leg at Agege Stadium, Lagos and qualify for the 2019 U-20 AFCON to be hosted by Niger Republic.
“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,” said Yusuf, who travelled with the team.
Yusuf spoke as the team left Nouakchott on Sunday morning; following the match, in which Abubakar Ibrahim put Nigeria in front after only seven minutes at Stade Olympique, but the hosts pulled themselves back on level terms in the 11th minute with the equalizer.
Aigbogun started Saturday’s 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.
The Flying Eagles put up an impressive performance but despite maximum three changes, the seven-time African champions could not secure a winner, leaving the fixture delicately poised ahead of the final leg at the Agege Stadium, Lagos on Saturday this week.
To get to this stage, Nigeria shot past Guinea Bissau in the earlier round, pipping their opponents 1-0 in Calabar following a 2-2 draw in Bissau, while Mauritania eliminated Guinea on the away goal rule, winning 1-0 in Nouakchott before losing 2-3 in Conakry.
Aigbogun, however, expressed confidence that his wards will do better during the second leg, adding: “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.”