Nigeria blazed a trail by becoming the first team from Caf region to confirm its place at this year’s Fifa U-20 World Cup in New Zealand following a 4-1 win over Congo in their penultimate group game of the African Youth Championship (AYC).
Two goals from skipper, Musa Muhamed and a goal apiece by Ifeanyi Matthew and Taiwo Awoniyi helped ten-man Flying Eagles cruise past their Congolese counterpart, through to the semi-finals of the African Under-20 Championship in Dakar, Senegal.
The six-time Africa champions exerted control early into the game at the Stade Leopold Sedar Senghor as Matthew grabbed a 4th-minute opener from close range from a Taiwo Awoniyi pass.
A rampant Nigeria threatened on two other occasions in the opening quarter, one of which fell to Mohamed in the sixth minute after an overlapping move by the defender, whose low shot was forced saved by goalkeeper Paveh Ndzila.
The Flying Eagles were reduced to ten men on 26 minutes as goalkeeper Joshua Enaholo received his marching orders for fouling Fred Ngoma at the edge of the box. Coach Manu Garba was forced into an early change which saw forward Chidera Ezeh pave way for Enaholo’s understudy and Giwa Fc stalwart Olorunleke Oluwasegun.
Despite the numerical disadvantage, Nigeria continued pressing forward and Awoniyi was soon felled in the opposite goal area by Cosme Atoni Mavougou. Mohamed took to the spot and slotted home with aplomb five minutes after the half-hour mark.
The Young Red Devils had a brief spell of sustained pressure after the break but threw cautions to the wind.
Mohamed then tripled the Flying Eagles’ lead from the spot in the 54th minute after Awoniyi was again brought down by Mavougou in the Congolese area.
Silvere Ganvoula pulled one back for Congo in the 62nd minute after a sloppy defensive play by the Nigerian back-four. Moise Mkoukou, Bevic Moussito and Mboussy came close to scoring but all lacked precision in their attempt.
Man of the Match Awoniyi eventually registered his name on the scoresheet three minutes to the dead, smashing his powerful effort past Ndzili after a counter attacking move.
Nigeria have now accrued maximum six points from two games, enough to take them to the semi-finals of the championship, hence the 2015 Fifa U-20 World Cup.
Hosts Senegal and Cote d’Ivoire will bid to join the group leaders in the last four in the other Group A game of Match Day Two.