Emphatic Nigeria were the first team to qualify for the FIFA U-20 World Cup in New Zealand after thrashing Congo 4-1 on Wednesday at the Leopold Sedar Senghor Stadium in Dakar.
Captain Musa Muhamed scored a brace whilst Ifeanyi Matthew and Taiwo Awoniyi also scored for Nigeria, to top Group A thus earned a berth in the semi-finals. With six points from two matches, Nigeria are surely to finish as one of the top two teams in their Group leaving the other spot for the rest of the pack to play for.
The Flying Eagles took control of the match and created some chances one of which was converted by Matthew in the fourth minute with an excellent pass from Taiwo Awoniyi who skillfully raced past a defender before thundering a shot past Congo keeper Pavelh Ndzila from close range for the first goal.
The second chance fell to Muhammed two minutes later during one of his overlapping runs. Taiwo Awoniyi received through pass from the mid-field and dribble Karl Ekaya and squared to his captain who sent a low shot that forced Keeper Ndzila to make one of the best saves of the first half.
In the 26th minute, Nigeria were dealt a huge blow when goalkeeper Enaholo Joshua was sent off for a rough launch on Fred Ngoma at the edge of the area. With a man down, Nigeria coach Manu Garba had to change his team formation by substituting Chidera Ezeh for second-choice goalkeeper Olorunkele Oluwasegun. The free-kick was quickly taken by the Congolese and shot wide.
Nigeria’s Awoniyi who was consistently troubled the Congolese defence was brought down by Atoni Mavougou in the box for a penalty which was nicely slotted home by Mohamed for the second goal.
The Junior Red Devils took advantage of numerical strength early in the second half launching numerous attacks on the Nigerian goal. However, it was the Flying Eagles who increased their tally on 54 minutes after Awoniyi broke through the Congolese defence only to be fouled by Mavougou again for a penalty. Muhammed again sent Keeper Ndzila in the opposite direction for the third goal.
In 62nd minute, Silvere Ganvoula Mboussy netted a consolation goal for the Congolese when the Nigerian defence was got flatfooted.
Three minutes from time, Awoniyi sealed victory with the fourth goal with a perfect strike. After dispossessing the Congolese off a counter, Matthew put through a great ball to Awoniyi, who lobbed a superb shot past Keeper Ndzila to win maximum points for Nigeria to send them to the semis and a thorough spot in New Zealand 2015.
Poalo Berrettini (Head Coach, Congo)
“Despite the result, we have done a good job. We recovered well in the second half but could not score more goals despite the many chances. We will get back to work and do our best by correcting our mistakes for the next match. I have been head coach of Congo since 2014 and the team has improved during that period”.
Manu Garba (Head Coach, Nigeria)
“I’m grateful to Almighty God for qualifying for the FIFA U-20 World Cup. It was a great victory playing most part of the game with 10 men. To score seven goals in two matches is no easy job. I believe we are a strong side. My boys have done very well. Our target is to win all the matches and that means winning the trophy as well. The first part of the job has been with qualification for the World Cup. Now, the other target is to go to the World Cup as African champions”.
Chidera Ezeh (Midfielder, Nigeria)
“We are happy to have qualified for the FIFA U-20 World Cup. The job is not done yet. Our aim is to win all our matches at the tournament. Against Cote d’Ivoire, we will be looking for a win as well. They beat us in the final of the Africa U-17 Championship in Morocco in 2013 and we want to avenge that loss”.