Nigeria now have to wait for their last group game against hosts, Niger Republic to know whether they will qualify for the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Poland following their goalless draw with South Africa yesterday at the on-going African U-20 Championship.
Yesterday’s game in Niamey was the teams’ second games of the competition and Nigeria needed a win to confirm their qualification for the World Cup having won their first game against Burundi 2-0. But that was not to be as South Africa defended with everything they had to keep the Flying Eagles at bay.
The game was expected to be a tough encounter, but the Flying Eagles dominated proceedings from the onset, did everything perfectly, except score the goal that would have separated the sides.The game was the first of the tournament not to record a goal after full time.
South Africa’s goalkeeper, Khulekani Khulebka was in inspired form as he dived, punched and kicked out all Nigeria’s goal bound efforts. First, Khulebka stopped Nazifi Mohammed’s point blank header midway into the first half before tipping over Abubakar Ibrahim’s shot two minutes before the break.
Having tried all they could in the first half, the Flying Eagles seemed to run out of ideas in the second stanza as they were reduced to taking speculative shots at Khulebka’s goal.Nigeria would have drawn blood towards the end of the game when Paschal Durugbor pounced on a rare mistake by Kubehka, but his effort flew out of target.
Now desperate for the winner, the Flying Eagles threw everything at the South Africans, but they could make no headway.The frustrated Nigerians swarmed on the match officials when the centre referee, Peter Waweru did not allow them take a last minute free kick before ending the game. But the officials stood their ground and so the Eagles live to fight again. They need at least a draw against Niger Republic on Friday to confirm their ticket to the semifinals, as well as the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Poland.