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Mixed reactions to Eaglets' loss

28 April 2013, 13:13

Abuja - Football stakeholders on Saturday in Abuja expressed mixed feelings about the U-17 national team, Golden Eaglets' 4-5 loss to Cote d'ivoire in the final of the African Youth Championship (AYC).

Director of Competitions of the Nigeria Football Association (NFA) Sanusi Mohammed commended the team's efforts and blamed the loss on the ``work destiny''.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the Eaglets lost 4-5 on penalties to the Baby Elephants after a 1-1 draw at the 90 minutes regular time in the final of the 10th continental championship.

"The players tried their best but it was destiny that was at work today.

"If not, Cote d'ivoire was not in anyway better than the teams we thrashed mercilessly at the championship.

"But what happened was that they came all out to play a defensive game with us especially in the second half.

"Also, they used counter attacks against us and the mid-fielders were always forward to support the attackers.

"Then in the course of the game, we were one man down and our opponents are more physical.

"But I must say that it was destiny that nobody can run away from, because our team would have been able to go through despite all odds,'' he said.

Mohammed added that apart from luck that ran against the team, the penalty kick lost during the penalty shoot-out was uncalled for.

"Besides luck that worked against the team, I feel the player that took the kick, Chidiebere Nwakali, just denied the team winning the trophy.

"I was with the team on Thursday when they practised penalty shoot-out in case the game turns out the way it did and I can say categorically that nobody among the players had that kind of kick.

"So I am still surprised till now how he just decided to be silly for taking that kind of kick, it was uncalled for,'' the director said.

NFA's Chief Technical Officer, Abdulrafiu Yusuf, said youthful exuberance cost the team the trophy.

"It was a good match and the bottom line is that the team has qualified for the World Cup in October, but they played against a matured side today and our players were naive.

"The Ivoriens were tough, aggressive and hard and they are°_?? technically and tactically good.

"I think the team lost the match, though they played well, despite the fact that they were one-man down, due to a careless kick.

"As far as I am concerned, you can't call that a penalty kick, I think it was youthful exuberance from the player.

"May be he thought it was a child's play and forgot it was a competition," Yusuf said.

He, however, noted that the officiating was not fair enough in the second half of the game.

"In the second half of the game, the referee was not fair to the Golden Eaglets, although the player that was sent off was justified.

"The referee wasn't too decisive and he made some unnecessary calls, personally, I think he was against the Golden Eaglets in the match,'' the technical officer said.

Looking into the future, Yusuf added that the team still had a lot to work on before the World Cup, if it must succeed.

"They are still growing as a team and they need matured games to do that.

"I am sure that when they get to the World Cup, they will see more matured games since teams from other countries are_???? better tactically and technically.

"The coaches must have noticed some of their flaws which include that they had so many unutilised opportunities and they are weak in set pieces.

"They had a lot of corner kicks and free kicks which they couldn't convert to goals and these are? technical prowess that other teams could use against them.

"They have to train more on that both for and against because the goal they conceded against Ivory Coast was a free kick.

"They should learn how to defend set pieces and utilise theirs.

"So, they are still in their building process and they have not arrived yet because they will meet so many strong oppositions at the World Cup stage.

"Other than that, I think they have a good team but they still need some work to do," he said.

NAN reports that the Eaglets, from the semi-final stage, qualified for the U-17 World Cup in United Arab Emirates in October.

The other African countries that will represent the continent at the competition are Ivory Coast, Tunisia and Morocco.


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