By Duro Ikhazuagbe
Two late goals by wingback Osas Okoro and substitute Peter Eneji ensured that the home-based Eagles began their 2017 WAFU Cup campaign with a 2-0 victory over Sierra Leone last night in Cape Coast, Ghana.
Okoro’s 83rd minute free-kick sailed over the Leone Star’s wall into the back of the net to register Nigeria’s opening goal of the campaign.
Eneji who made his senior national team debut at the ongoing WAFU Cup doubled the lead in the 87th minute for Eagles. He had similarly powered Plateau United to their first NPFL title last Saturday at the Rwang Pam Stadium in Jos. Plateau defeated Enugu Rangers to win the 2016/2017 Nigerian league title.
The win means Nigeria is through to the group stage of the competition alongside host Ghana, Senegal and Mali. Eagles next game is against Ghana.
Eight teams are to emerge from this knock out phase into the group stage of the competition taking place between September 9th and 24th.
Ghana and Nigeria have seven African titles between them, with the Super Eagles and the Black Stars featuring in the last two FIFA World Cup finals in South Africa (2010) and Brazil (2014).
All the teams in Group A are playing in Cape Coast while Group B will compete in Takoradi, the twin city of Sekondi that also hosted matches during the 2008 Africa Cup of Nations.
Group A teams include, Nigeria, Ghana, The Gambia, Mauritania, Guinea Bissau and Guinea.
2015 African champions Cote d’Ivoire headline the pool that also has Senegal, Burkina Faso and Benin Republic, with Liberia, Niger Republic, Togo and Cape Verde also involved.
Meanwhile, The Gambia Football Federation (GFF) is threatening to pull out of the West African Football Union (WAFU).
The comments come after refereeing controversies at the last two regional tournaments.
The GFF has submitted complaints to the regional body and the Confederation of African Football (CAF) over a penalty awarded at the ongoing WAFU Cup of Nations.
“We’re considering our position in WAFU because with all the resources invested in it – to go out in such manner is not fair,” the GFF President Lamin Kabba Bajo told BBC Sport yesterday.
“We will probably discuss the issue in a month’s time during our next executive committee meeting,” The Gambia FA boss hinted.
The Gambia was knocked out of the tournament when hosts Ghana scored from the spot after Burkina Faso’s Boukari Ouedraogo adjudged a Gambian player had handled the ball.
This is the second consecutive WAFU Cup of Nations tournament in which The Gambia feel they have been treated unfairly.
Two years ago Senegal was crowned regional champions when The Gambia refused to play extra-time following a goalless draw.
Their officials pointed to the fact that the match officials had said the match would go straight to penalties before ultimately reviewing the rules that stipulated extra-time should be played first.
The GFF’s protest also pointed two other matches that it feels were poorly officiated recently.