Coach Manu Garba (MFR) has described Sunday’s 2013 CAF U-17 Championship draw that pitched his wards against two West-African giants, Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire and 2011 second runner-up, Congo-Brazzaville as interesting, expressing confidence that the Golden Eaglets would progress from what is widely regarded as the group of death!
In the other half of the draws in Group A are the hosts, Morocco, Gabon, Tunisia and Botswana.
Speaking immediately after the draws were concluded at CAF’s Headquarters in Cairo, Garba said the target of the Golden Eaglets would be first and foremost, to qualify for the semi-finals from the group in order to book a ticket for the 2013 FIFA Under-17 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates.
“The draws are very interesting because we have two other West- African sub-regional teams in our group,” stated Garba. “But I’m confident about our chances despite the fact that we are going to play our traditional rivals.”
Ghana tops the CAF U-17 Championship all-time record after being crowned champions in 1995 and 1999. The Black Starlets were also runner-up in 2005 and twice second runner-up in 1997 and 2007.
Nigeria on the other hand, is second in the all-time championship record following Golden Eaglets’ success in 2001 and 2007 as well as being runner-up and second runner-up in 1995 and 2003 respectively. Both Cote d’Ivoire and Congo Brazzaville are still looking for their first title but they came third in 2005 and 2011 respectively.
“On paper, our group can be regarded as the toughest because of the records of all the four teams in the past championships,” admitted Garba. “It is important that we play all the tough teams and win if we are going to be the overall champions.
“With good preparations and God on our side, we shall qualify from our group irrespective of the oppositions to get to the semi-final stages and qualify for the World Cup,” added Garba.
While Ghana edged out South Africa on a 5-3 aggregate to book a ticket to Morocco 2013, Cote d’Ivoire saw off Senegal on a 3-2 aggregate and Congo-Brazzaville, the seeded team in Group B, trumped Tanzania on a 2-1 aggregate.
Golden Eaglets boasted the best qualification record by winning all its six matches but Garba reckons that all of that is in the past as they now focus attention on the championship proper in Morocco.