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Sunday, 10 February 2019

Under-20 AFCON: Flying Eagles Pip Hosts Niger, Book Semifinals

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A brilliant second-half goal from Hadji Drame set up a mouthwatering semi-final clash between the Junior Eagles of Mali and Nigeria’s Flying Eagles at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations in Niger Republic while eliminating 2009 world champions Ghana.

The all –West African semi-final will take centre stage on Wednesday, 13th February at the Stade General Seyni Kountche.

Both teams were on three points each from their previous two matches and while Ghana needed only a draw to qualify for the semi-finals as a result of having no goal deficit, the Malians, needing an outright win to qualify, showed greater desire and passion on the ball from the beginning, with Boubacar Traore, El Bilal Toure, and Mamadou Traore combining well together at the fore.

Ghana, through the lively Mohamed Kudus, Enoch Atta Agyei and Emmanuel Kumah afterward tried to impose themselves on the game, but the Malians held firm at the rear while launching forays upfront, and always looked the most likely to get a goal.

The Flying Eagles, who reached the FIFA U20 World Cup and the championship semifinals on Friday with a 1-0 victory over host Niger Republic, were at the Stade Seyni Kountche alongside their technical and backroom staff to watch the Ghana, Mali clash.

Mali lost their opening game 0-2 to Senegal before they defeated Burkina Faso by a lone goal in Maradi. Victory over Ghana shot them to the last four and earned them a ticket to the FIFA U20 World Cup finals in Poland.

The second semi-final, which will hold in Maradi on the same day, is between Senegal and South Africa.

Nigeria legend Emmanuel Amuneke has advised the Flying Eagles to focus and emphasize more on playing as a team, instead of displaying individual brilliance, as he sees a very tricky semi-final clash with the Malians.

“Our players have to do more of teamwork. The semi-final match against Mali would be explosive and would be an interesting one. But if we play as a team rather than players doing their individual thing, we would come out on top,” he said at the Stade Seyni Kountche on Saturday evening. Africa Cup of Nations winner, Olympic gold medallist and two –time FIFA World Cup star Amuneke, who is Head Coach of Tanzania, is in Niger Republic as a Member of the CAF Technical Study Group at this championship.

Meanwhile, the Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Barrister Solomon Dalung, has congratulated the Flying Eagles on their qualification for the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Poland, while urging the team to go all out for the trophy.

“I congratulate you for picking one of the four slots for Africa to play at the World Cup in Poland.

“I have followed the team’s progress in the group stage and I am impressed by their youthful skills, determination, and teamwork.

”I commend you for your performance so far in the African Championship and I pray that you scale through your semi-final match against Mali and possibly win the trophy."
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