Nduka Ugbade captained the first Nigerian squad to win a FIFA World Cup, in 1985, and was assistant coach when the Golden Eaglets won the FIFA U17 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates 10 years ago. He also took a FIFA U20 World Cup silver medal in 1989. Now, he is looking to lead the Nigeria U17 team to win the Africa U17 Cup of Nations as preparatory to giving the FIFA U17 World Cup a shot later this year.
“These boys have now picked up the confidence they needed following the defeat by Morocco and they are now looking forward to going all the way here,” Ugbade said on Sunday following the Golden Eaglets’ 3-2 win over South Africa in their last match of Group B in Constantine on Saturday.
Vicky Mkhawana steered the Amajimbo ahead in the 6thminute of the encounter, from South Africa’s first corner kick of the match, and Nigeria equalized in the 33rdminute also through a corner kick as Charles Agada powerfully nodded into the net with the Amajimbo goalkeeper stranded.
Much against the run of play, the Amajimbo restored their lead with a fabulous solo goal in stoppage time by Siyabonga Mabena.
Undeterred, the five-time world champions restored parity when Light Eke finished coolly from a low cross by Charles Agada, two minutes into the second period.
The Nigerians were completely in control afterwards, and Abdullahi Abubakar scored his first goal of the competition with a calm finish in the 63rd minute.
“This victory has restored the boys’ confidence. We needed such a win going into the knock-out rounds and it is our belief that we can handle the pressure there.
“The loss to Morocco was also a good lesson for us. When you’re at a championship, you need a winning mentality, but also a match that provides good lessons along the way. Both factors make for a very strong and ready squad.”
The Golden Eaglets will play the winner of the clash between Cameroon and Burkina Faso (Group C) in the quarter finals on Thursday.