By Victor Okoye
Nigeria’s national under-20 male football team on Tuesday were held to a goalless draw by the Amajitas of South Africa at the ongoing Under-20 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON).
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the match played at the Stade General S.K. in Niamey, Niger Republic was the Flying Eagles’ second round Group A fixture.
Nigeria had taken control of the pool with a 2-0 win over Burundi, while South Africa played out a 1-1 draw in their tournament opener with the —– host nation Niger on Saturday.
Thus, a win for the Flying Eagles would have seen advance to the next round.
The Flying Eagles asserted their dominance over the Amajitas in the early exchanges as they pegged back the South Africans who were more comfortable in defending.
Yahaya had a chance to open scoring for Nigeria in the early minutes of the first half but failed to connect as Effiom’s goalbound cross was tipped over by goalkeeper Kubheka.
The Amajitas also had their chance in the first half but Flying Eagles’ goalkeeper Olawale Oremade was brave to get off his line to deny Siphesihle Mkhize.
There were chances few and between for both sides afterwards with none able to convert as the first half ended 0-0.
The second stanza was not different as the South Africans stuck to their guns and defended stoutly.
They struggled to get out of their own half for most of the encounter deploying more men in defence to curtail the rampaging forwards of the Flying Eagles.
Nigeria had to wait until the final minutes of the second half to carve out chances, but Amajita goalkeeper Kubheka produced a couple of key saves to keep the score line goalless.
Pascal Durugbor came close to scoring for Nigeria but his header from Mike Zaruma failed to hit the target.
Yahaya also tried a long range shot which however failed to trouble goalkeeper Kubheka as the Amajitas held on and ensured South Africa earned a hard-fought draw.
In spite of the draw, the seven-times winners of the competition remain top of group A with four points from two games, while South Africa are second with two points from the same number of games.
Hosts Niger who take on Burundi in their second game later on Tuesday are third with one point, while Burundi occupy bottom of the table with no points yet.
Nigeria will face hosts Niger in their final group game on Friday, while South Africa battle Burundi also on Friday.
Nigeria will require a win or at least a draw against hosts Niger in the last game to ensure qualification to the FIFA Under-20 World Cup.
The top two teams from each group advance into the semi-finals and also secure qualification to the FIFA Under-20 World Cup in Poland later this year.(NAN)