On Saturday night in Constantine, Nigeria pulled off an incredible comeback to defeat South Africa 3-2 and advance to the quarterfinals of the TotalEnergies U17 Africa Cup of Nations in Algeria.
The Golden Eaglets recovered from behind twice to earn maximum points and finish second in Group B, behind group winners Morocco. Abubakar Abdullahi scored the game-winning goal for the Golden Eaglets.
South Africa is currently in third position with three points and is eagerly awaiting Sunday’s results from Group C to see whether they can make it into the final eight as one of the two best third-place teams.
Vicky Mkhawana’s low volley into the net after Waylon Renecke’s header from Gabriel Amato’s corner rebounded off the post gave the Amajimbos the lead after six minutes.
But as South Africa searched for an equalizer, Nigeria repeatedly camped in their half, forcing them to defend deeply. One on one with the goalkeeper, Abdullahi almost missed the target as Charles Agada had a goal ruled out for offside.
In the 33rd minute, Agada equalized with a header after a corner was touched into his path unmarked at the backpost. The pressure had finally paid off.
At the very end of the first half, Gennaro Johnson of South Africa made a fantastic save with his foot to stop Byby Abdullahi’s one-on-one volley inside the area.
Siyabonga Mabena’s excellent individual performance helped South Africa retake the lead in the second minute of additional time.
The Mamelodi Sundowns player took up the ball on the left, fought off two defenders, and fired a powerful shot that hit the underside of the bar and went over the goal line.
However, Nigerians equalized again only a few seconds into the second half when Light Eke tapped in inside the box following a cross from Agada off a strong run on the right.
When Abdullahi snuck in between the two center defenders to extend a foot and direct Emmanuel Michael’s cross into the goal, they scored the winning goal in the 65th minute.
South Africa made an attempt to draw even, but Nigeria played strong defense and had their lead increased had Abdullahi’s strike not hit the crossbar.
Nigeria will now face the second-placed team from Group C as the runners-up.