Group B winners Nigeria will today lock horns against regional rivals Cote d’Ivoire in the eagerly anticipated second semi final of the ongoing WAFU B U20 Championship in Niamey, Niger Republic.
It promises to be a spellbinding encounter. On offer is a ticket to next year’s Africa U20 Cup of Nations in Egypt, already scheduled for 18th February – 12th March. Only the two finalists from the WAFU B tournament will qualify for the eight-team finals in Egypt. Ladan Bosso’s wards will file out against the Ivorians at the Stade General Seyni Kountché at 8pm, after the first semi final between Benin Republic and Burkina Faso at the same venue.
With such low expectations from the fans coming into this tournament, victory in the semi final against Ivory Coast is now non-negotiable.
The ante has been upped. The stakes have been raised and Bosso’s reputation is on the line. If Nigeria loses today, Bosso would have become a casualty of his own success having navigated the team to group stage glory.
For me, Ladan Bosso has done reasonably well in his perpetual and incessant Flying Eagles coaching career. His achievements to date are:
1) Qualifying the Flying Eagles for the 2009 Under-20 world cup. 2) Reaching the second round of the 2007 Under-20 world cup. 3) Reaching the quarter finals of the 2007 Under-20 world cup. 4) Reaching the semi-finals of the 2022 Wafu B Under-20 Cup. 5) Winning Bronze at the 2009 Under 20 Africa Cup of Nations (so Bosso has actually won a medal for the Under-20 with his Flying Eagles defeating Ivory Coast 3:0 in the group stages of that tournament in Rwanda).
Bosso now needs to do more.
He needs to win this Wafu Cup and go one step further in either winning or coming second in the Under-20 Africa Cup of Nations next January.
Then at the World Cup, he needs to go beyond the quarter finals, then finally his vociferous critics will finally sit up and take notice.
But I am running ahead of myself. The immediate task is the game against Ivory Coast.
Coach Ladan Bosso, who cannot afford to falter, is confident that his boys will rise to the occasion against the Ivorians and pick a ticket to Egypt.
He must get his tactics right and be able to read the game and make necessary adjustments if needed in-game.
Nigeria must prevail.