Nigeria’s Flying Eagles are through to the final match of the African Games after a hectic 120-minute battle with Mali.
The Nigerian side survived the tough encounter under intense heat and scaled through 4-3 on penalties after a goalless encounter.
The score line speaks little about the tension. It was a drama of penalties.
Perhaps the penalty kick miss by Nigeria’s skipper, Ibrahim Abubakar was an indication to the drama that unfolded after the regulation and extra time.
With score line at 0-0, the tie had to be broken by penalty shootout. One after the other, the two teams missed their kicks thrice in a row.
It was in Nigeria’s fourth kick, by Abubakar Ibrahim that the ball first entered the net. The Malians also scored theirs before Success Makanjuola scored fifth kick.
In sudden death, Samuel Nnochiri and Adesina Gata scored just as their Malian opposite numbers. But after Adewale Oladoye scored, Mali’s next kick was saved by the inspired Ogundare to take Nigeria to Friday’s final
Encounters of Mali and Nigeria at the U-20 level had in recent time ended in penalty shoot-out. At the CAF U20 championship in Niger earlier this year, both played 1-1 in the semi-finals. But Mali triumphed on penalties.
Last year, both met in the WAFU Cup. The game ended 1-1 with Nigeria victorious 5-4 in the penalty shoot-out.
Meanwhile, it is the first time that Nigeria will reach the final of the men’s football tournament of the African Games since losing the gold medal match to Cameroon inside the National Stadium Complex, Abuja in 2003.
Nigeria won the gold medal of the football event (no women edition then) of the 2nd
African Games she hosted in Lagos in 1973 and then lost in the final to host nation Algeria in 1978.