Nigeria’s U-17 national team secured a spot in the knockout round of the 2023 African U-17 Cup of Nations with a 3-2 win over rivals South Africa on a dramatic last matchday in Constantine, Algeria.
The Golden Eaglets came into the encounter needing only a draw to advance, but they were made to work hard for their win as the South Africans took the lead twice in the game before a second-half comeback enabled the Eaglets to get a deserved victory.
The Amajimbos took the initiative early in the encounter through Vicky Mkhawana’s strike from a corner in the 6th minute.
Nigeria then dominated proceedings from that point on, and deservedly got their equalizer in the 34th minute through a corner kick. Forward Charles Agada tucked in a looping header from close range after the South African goalkeeper failed to deal with Yahaya Lawali’s delivery.
Against the run of play however, the South Africans got back in the lead courtesy of Siyabonga Mabena’s powerful drive in the last minute of additional time in the first half. Mkhawana turned provider for the sensational goal as he played Mabena through on goal in a rapid South African counterattack. The forward dribbled two Nigerian defenders before seeing his powerful strike go in off the crossbar.
The Eaglets then did well to start the second half on a good note as striker Light Eke turned in Agada’s cross from about two yards out to get his team on level terms again right on 46 minutes.
Nigeria’s pressure finally paid off in full in the 64th minute when Abubakar Abdullahi tucked in Emmanuel Michael’s cross to make it 3-2.
Nduka Ugbade’s boys then held on to their advantage and saw out a vital win over the Amajinbos to finish 2nd in Group B just behind Morocco who suffered a shock 2-1 defeat to last-place Zambia on the night.
Nigeria’s opponent for the quarter-finals will be revealed after the conclusion of Group C’s matchday fixtures on Sunday.