Uneasy calm in Golden Eaglets’ camp
• ‘Burkinabes are taller, more deadly’
• But we’ll beat them, says official
There appears to be uneasy calm in the Golden Eaglets’ camp as they prepare for today’s semifinal against Burkina Faso at the ongoing WAFU U-17 Cup Tournament in Togo.
The coach Fatai Amoo-led Golden Eaglets sneaked into the semifinal on Tuesday evening after the Baby Elephants of Cote d’Ivoire defeated the Black Starlets of Ghana 3-1.
An official of the team told The Guardian in a telephone conversation yesterday that it would require determination and luck for the Golden Eaglets to beat Burkina Faso this afternoon.
He said: “The Burkinabes are currently the most improved youth football playing nation in West Africa. Before now, it used to be Nigeria, Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire and Mali. But the Burkinabes seem to have taken over, both at the U-17 and U-20 level. Their players are very tall, fast and deadly in the attack. They have scored some fantastic goals in this competition. But we will face them.”
In December last year, Burkina Faso and Ghana made it to the final of the WAFU U-20 Cup Tournament in Port Novo, Benin Republic, a competition where the Flying Eagles of Nigeria failed in the group stage. The coach Ladan Bosso-led Flying Eagles lost to Ghana and drew with Cote d’Ivoire to wave goodbye to the tourney.
Though the Golden Eaglets’ official is of the opinion that the Burkinabes might be difficult for Nigeria to handle this afternoon in Togo, he added that the team would approach the game with the Nigerian spirit of never give up.
“Nigeria is parading one of the youngest teams in this tournament. Even CAF has confirmed it. My worry is that our players are nervous because this is the first time they are featuring in a big competition. But the technical crew is doing a fantastic job. We actually outplayed Ghana in our last game, even though it ended 1-1. If the boys can take their chances against Burkina Faso on Friday (today), I am sure we will carry the day. But we must not underrate them (Burkina Faso),” he said.
Asked if the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) had given the players enough motivation ahead of today’s semifinal, the official responded, saying: “I will say yes, because the NFF president, Amaju Pinnick, actually visited us last week before the game against Ghana. Pinnick charged the players to believe in themselves, and that Nigerians don’t want to know about tactics. He told them to always remember the spirit of winning, which gives Nigerians joy. That was the spirit the players displayed in our match against Ghana. We expect more from them against Burkina Faso.”
The winners of today’s semifinals will battle between Cote d’Ivoire and Niger Republic for the trophy on Wednesday at the Stade Kegue, and also qualify for the CAF U-17 Cup of Nations billed for March 13 -31 in Morocco.