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Nigeria’s U-20 men’s football team, The Flying Eagles on Wednesday booked their ticket to the 2015 FIFA U-20 World Cup in New Zealand. Manu Garba’s boys ousted their Congolese counterparts 4-1 in their second fixture at the ongoing African Youth Championship to book a place in the semi final of the tournament. Despite being a man down for close to an hour, a brace from Captain Musa Muhammed and strikes from Taiwo Awoniyi and Ifeanyi Mathew were enough to ease past Congo. Going into the game, Nigeria needed just a win – after defeating Senegal 3-1 in their opening fixture – to get to the knockout stages of the competition and automatically qualify for the FIFA U-20 World Cup whilst Congo were in dire need of a win after drawing 1-1 with Ivory Coast in their first game. Nigeria raced into an early lead when Mathew put his team infront in the fourth minute after receiving a defence splitting pass from the inspirational Awoniyi, before slotting the ball past Congolese goalkeeper, Pavelh Ndzila from close range. However, their joy was shortlived when their goalkeeper, Joshua Enaholo was sent to the dressing room for an early bath in the 26th minute for rushing out of his goal post to foul Fred Ngoma at the edge of the penalty area. Manu Garba made a quick substitution and sacrificed a striker, Chidera Eze to bring in substitute goalkeeper, Olorunleke Ojo. Despite being a man short, Nigeria doubled their lead from the penalty spot through Captain Muhammed after Awoniyi was brought down by Cosme Mavougou in the penalty area. After the restart, Muhammed grabbed his brace and Eagles’ third again from the penalty spot in the 54th minute after Awoniyi, who was a thorn in the Congolese’s flesh, was hacked down again by Mavougou. Ganvoula Mboussy reduced the deficit for Congo just past the hour mark after taking advantage of some lapses in the Nigerian defence. However, man of the match, Awoniyi, had the final say with the last goal of the day; with a tremendous strike past Ndzila to record an emphatic win for his team. Nigeria became the first team to reach the semi final at the competition with a game left to play and booked their place at the 2015 FIFA U-20 World Cup.    

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This article was first published on 13th March 2015

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