By Sedara Philip
Five-time world champions Nigeria will begin her quest for honours at this year’s Africa U-17 Cup of Nations when they take on their Zambian counterparts in the Algerian city of Constantine on Sunday evening.
The Golden Eaglets flew into Constantine on Tuesday night, after MRI tests conducted on the 26 players in Algiers following their arrival in the North African country from Egypt.
Nigeria, two-time winners of the continental championship, have won the world titles in 1985 (China), 1993 (Japan), 2007 (Korea Republic), 2013 (United Arab Emirates) and 2015 (Chile).
The Confederation of African Football launched the U-17 event as a tournament in Mali in 1995, with the Golden Eaglets finishing behind rivals Black Starlets of Ghana. The Eaglets did not qualify for the 1997 finals, and lost out in the group phase in Guinea in 1999.
Nigeria were champions of the 4th CAF U-17 Tournament in Seychelles in 2001, easily defeating Burkina Faso 3-0 in Victoria. The Golden Eaglets won again in Togo in 2015, and went on to win the FIFA World Cup in Korea Republic.
The last time the Golden Eaglets met Zambia at this level was in 2015 in Niger Republic, when Nigeria triumphed 3-1 in Niamey with two of the goals from Victor Osimhen, who would go on to become the record goalscorer at the U-17 World Cup (with 10 goals) as Nigeria won a fifth global title in Chile later that year. Interestingly, Zambia’s goal was scored by Patson Daka, who would go on to dazzle at the Africa U20 Cup of Nations hosted and won by his country two years later.
For this 14th edition of the Africa U-17 Cup of Nations, the Eaglets will also play Morocco and South Africa in Group B. Hosts Algeria will tackle Senegal, Congo and Somalia in Group A, while Cameroon duel with Mali, Burkina Faso and South Sudan in Group C.
The four top-placed teams at the end of the tournament will fly Africa’s flag at this year’s U-17 World Cup.