This Day (Lagos)

20 November 2012

Nigeria/Mali: Battle of Bamako - Kanu, Ugbe Tip Eaglets to Shock Mali

Nwankwo Kanu, erstwhile Super Eagles captain, is bullish that the Golden Eaglets will scale the Malian hurdle to qualify Nigeria for the African Under-17 Championship for the first time since 2007.

The Golden Eaglets take a 2-0 goal advantage to Bamako in two weeks time against a supposedly big and obviously older opposition but Kanu said he is not confident the Nigerian youngsters would not be overawed by the Junior Eagles of Mali.

"If we are talking about size, Mali should have ordinarily defeated the Golden Eaglets today (Sunday) but winning matches is not about how big you are," Kanu, said after watching the pulsating encounter.

"Despite the size of the Malians, the Golden Eaglets were still able to play their usual passing game and were just unlucky to have scored just two goals."

Kanu, a star of the 1993 Golden Eaglets that emerged champions at Japan'93, said he hinged his optimism on the premise that the current national Under-17 team is blessed with players who could be match winner any day!

"Alhassan Ibrahim, the number 8 for instance, can wreck the Malians and he was just unlucky today because he should have scored more than a goal," he re-emphasized.

"They just need to relax and play their usual style and I'm confident that they would beat Mali in Bamako," added Kanu.

Similarly, Hon. Patrick Ugbe, the Cross River State Commissioner of Sports, has also tipped the Golden Eaglets to eventually qualify for the 2013 African Cadet Championship to be hosted in Morocco.

"This is about the best team that Nigeria is building at present," Ugbe.

"My prayer is that they qualify for the African Junior Championship because it would be such a big disappointment if they don't because I believe they are such a good side."

He said the Golden Eaglets have demonstrated overtime that they can hold their own against team consequently; they can upset the Malians if they play collectively as a team.

Said he: "I believe they would pull through in Bamako. On Sunday, they played against men and the officials and if they could still beat the Malians 2-0, I think they are capable of doing same in Bamako.

"At least the Malians need to score three goals and I don't think this Golden Eaglets can play a match without scoring a goal. They should not be deterred by the size of the Malians; it is their ability that matters, As long as they are disciplined and play as a team, they cannot be stopped by the Malians even in Bamako."

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