Eaglets face old foes B’Faso in WAFU U-17 opener

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National U-17 men’s team, Golden Eaglets, will begin their WAFU B U-17 title defence in Ghana on Thursday (today) against old foes, Burkina Faso, the team that prevented them from reaching the FIFA U-17 World Cup in Indonesia last year.

Led by coach Nduka Ugbade at the last WAFU B tournament in 2022, the Eaglets beat Burkina Faso 2-1 to win the title but the Burkinabe prevailed when it mattered most at the 2023 U-17 Nations Cup in Algeria, beating Nigeria 2-1 in the quarter-finals to deny the five-time world champions a World Cup ticket.

Although it’s a new crop of players on both sides, the little bit of history between them will put revenge in the minds of the players as they begin another journey to the 2025 Nations Cup as well as the expanded 2025 World Cup in Qatar.

In March, the FIFA Council confirmed that the U-17 World Cup would be expanded to 48 teams and held annually, rather than biennially, as part of the governing body’s steadfast commitment to youth football.

Now under 2013 World Cup-winning coach Manu Garba, the Eaglets have scaled the first hurdle of passing the mandatory MRI test, with Garba exuding confidence about the quality of the team, having had his squad pruned by failures in the same test before departing Nigeria.

“We are happy about the results. Having the whole squad to prosecute the tournament somewhat puts our minds at rest,” Garba told NFF media.

“The players have been responding to training. The weather is similar to what we experienced in Abuja before our departure. Our primary objective is to get one of the two tickets from here to the Africa U-17 Cup of Nations. We will focus on the matches one at a time. For now, we are focused on our opening game against Burkina Faso on Thursday (today).”

According to the media officer of the team, Francis Achi, one of the players in the last squad, Simon Cletus, has been handed the task of captaining the team.

The Eaglets’ game against Burkina Faso will take place at the Ghana University Stadium, Accra by 4pm Nigerian time, before they take on Niger Republic on Sunday by 7pm Nigerian time and Togo on Wednesday by 5pm Nigerian time.

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