The confidence level of the Nigerian youngsters coached by Manu Garba was seemingly shattered following a narrow 1-0 win a fortnight ago in Abuja in the first leg but officials have gone beyond the pitch with the presence of a psychologist for the crucial return leg.
The Golden Eaglets who have qualified for all but four of the 12 previous editions including reaching the semis for the last two, are hoping to make up for the disappointment of their seniors, Flying Eagles (U-20), ousted by Sudan in the qualifiers for the continental championship due for Zambia next February.
Garba, who guided Nigeria to conquer the world in 2013, is banking on history to qualify at the expense of their neighbours.
“As long as I can remember, Niger has never beaten any Nigerian team at this level and I believe they will be under pressure playing against us in Niamey. In 2012, we beat Niger 4-1 in Niamey and 6-0 in Calabar; and last year our team also beat the Junior Menas 2-0 when they hosted the U-17 AFCON.
“We would have won the first leg match in Abuja with a better goal margin if our strikers were a bit more careful but I'm confident we are going to do much better in Niamey. There won't be any room for errors against Niger in Niamey and our players have been told about this in clear terms,” said Garba.
Whilst Nigeria walks a tightrope, Cameroon, Ghana and Mali are favoured to go through after wide victories in the first leg two weeks ago.
Cameroon beat Kenya 7-0 in Limbe whilst Ghana’s Black Starlets take a 5-1 advantage to Ouagadougou to face Burkina Faso. For Mali, the 9-0 win N’djamena has almost confirmed their place at the final round ahead of the return leg this weekend at home in Bamako.
Also with a foot at the next round is Ethiopia, after a 3-1 win over Egypt in Cairo. The reverse will take place in Dire Dawa, over 400-kilometres off the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.
In Maputo, visiting Comoros will be eyeing a shock double over Mozambique after a 2-1 win in the first leg in Moroni.
Fourteen (14) teams will progress to the final round where the seven winners will confirm their place for Madagascar for the final tournament from 2-16 April 2017.
Saturday, 20 August 2016
Burkina Faso vs Ghana (1-5)
Niger vs Nigeria (0-1)
Gabon vs Algeria (0-0)
Kenya vs Cameroon (0-7)
Angola vs Mauritius (1-0)
Mozambique vs Comoros (1-2)
Senegal vs Tunisia (3-2)
Cote d’Ivoire vs Benin (1-1)
Sunday, 21 August 2016
Mali vs Chad (9-0)
Ethiopia vs Egypt (3-1)
Morocco vs Guinea (1-1)
Sudan vs Zambia (0-0)
Tanzania vs South Africa (1-1)
Congo vs Namibia (2-1)