Nigeria became the next in line on the casualty table of the qualifiers for the U-20 AFCON Zambia 2017 after Sudan shockingly beat them 4-3 in Lagos on Saturday, and confirm their place for next year’s tournament.
With the aggregate scores tied at 5-5 over the two legs, the continental record champions with seven titles under their belt thus failed to progress via away goals despite managing a 2-1 away win in Omdurman a fortnight ago.
In a repeat of what happened in the race towards the 1997 edition, Sudan qualified ahead of Nigeria yet again on the away goals rule as for the Flying Eagles failed to qualify for the biennial championship for the first time since 2005.
“We are all disappointed and the truth of the matter is that we are not able to qualify to Zambia and everybody is disappointed,” a crest-fallen Nigeria trainer Emmanuel Amuneke said in the post-match interview.
“The players are disappointed and Nigerians are disappointed; and I’m personally disappointed. A lot of Nigerians came to support us but unfortunately we are not in the position to make them happy. We are all sad but life has to move on; this is football,” added Amuneke.
Striker Khaled Abdulmonen Osman was hero for the Sudanese netting a hat-trick, which fuelled their bid for victory despite finishing the game with ten men after Walaa Eldin Musa was sent off after a second yellow card on 63 minutes.
Samuel Chukwueze opened scoring for the Flying Eagles after 15 minutes through a brilliant solo effort. The visitors levelled five minutes later through Amjad Ismail, before Funsho Bamgboye restored the homers lead in the 26th minute.
Osman made it 2-2 three minutes before the interval capitalising on a defensive lapse.
Thereafter, it was a ding-dong affair on resumption with Sudan taking the lead for the first time through Osman on 56 minutes, only for Orji Okonkwo to equalize for Nigeria after 66 minutes.
Eight minutes from time, Osman broke the hearts of the local fans with the match winner to seal a famous victory and a place at the final tournament at the expense of their hosts.
For the second time in a row, the defending champion has failed to qualify for the final tournament. Egypt, winners in 2013 failed to qualify for the last edition in Senegal in 2015.
However, the Junior Pharaohs booked their place for next year’s tourney in grand style, beating Angola 4-0 away in Luanda for 5-0 win on aggregate.
Karim Walid broke the deadlock on 12 minutes before Ahmed Ramadan doubled the lead just before the break. Ramadan completed his brace on 72 minutes with Amed Yasser completing the goal rout in stoppage time.
In Bloemfontein, a spirited second half performance inspired South Africa to a 3-0 win over Lesotho and 5-0 on aggregate. Liam Jonathan scored the opener four minutes after recess. Sibongakonke Ntuthuko strengthened the lead on 83 minutes before Zama Rambuwane put the icing on the cake two minutes from time.
Earlier on Friday, Ghana were the first casualty as a 1-0 win over Senegal in Cape Coast was not enough to see them overturn a 3-1 loss from the first leg as Senegal advanced 3-2 on aggregate.
This will be the first time that either Ghana or Nigeria has failed to qualify for the showpiece youth tournament.
The remaining three spots will be up for grabs in Sunday’s fixtures.
The final tournament is scheduled for 26 February to 12 March 2017, where the semi-finalists will represent Africa at the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Korea Republic next May.
Source: Confederation of African Football.