Niamey - Golden Eaglets Head coach Emmanuel Amuneke has described the team's first half performance in the pulsating 1-1 draw against Guinea at the 11th African U-17 Championship as the worst since he took over the reins of the team almost a year ago.
The lads seemingly collapsed in the first stanza as the young Syli Nationale had better initiatives and deservedly went into the lead after Nigeria conceded a soft penalty in the 11th minute. Captain Kelechi Nwakali later got the equalizer albeit through a spot kick towards the end of the match much to the relive of Nigerians at the stadium.
But speaking at the post match conference, Amuneke said he was shocked about the team's performance especially in the first half, even as he praised their resilience for salvaging a point.
"Frankly, this was our worst performance and the worst I have seen from these boys because we lost the initiative and composure of the game to the Guineans. We knew that the Guineans have some good individual players in No. 8 (Abdul Karim Conte), No. 11 (Abdoulaye Jules Keita) and No. 14 (Yamodou Toure), but we expected our boys to compose themselves much better," Amuneke said.
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He however admitted that the tactical changes he made thereafter in the second half helped the team as Ebere Osinachi and Orji Okonkwo who respectively replaced Christian Charles and Suleiman Abdullahi forced the Guineans to commit several fouls.
The match actually saw hard man, Alseny Soumah getting the matching order with six others cautioned by Congolese referee Jean Jacques Ngambo.
"Of course, I want to praise the players for their resilience in getting a draw against Guinea because this was a difficult game for them," he maintained.
"We played much better in the second half and it was good we got the equalizer.
"I'm not the referee and I think he is in better position to know if our equalizer was a good penalty or not. We deserved what we got but we would continue to work more for the coming matches."
Nigeria must at least guide against a defeat in their last Group A match against Zambia on Saturday to have a realistic chance of qualifying for the semifinals as well as the much sought after ticket to the 2015 FIFA Under-17 World Cup slated for Chile later this year.
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