By Joe Apu
The Ahmadou Ahidjo Stadium in Yaounde would be set alight on Sunday when Cameroon host Nigeria in the final round second leg of the FIFA U-17 World Cup Uruguay 2018 qualifiers.
The Nigerians nicknamed Flamingos have qualified for every edition of the global championship since its inception in 2008. In fact, they edged out their Cameroonian counterparts, ‘Les Jeunes Lionnes’ to qualify for the maiden edition hosted in New Zealand in 2008 but they would expectedly be under pressure to record an encore after an energetic 2-2 draw at the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium in Benin City a fortnight ago.
“The only regret is that we lost several scoring opportunities against Cameroon in the first leg but we have put that behind us,” Bala Nkiyu, the 54-year-old Flamingos’ trainer told CAFOnline.com.
“It’s now left to us to do what is needed and come out with something better when we go to Cameroon. I’m very sure we can put up a better performance and beat them in Yaounde.”
Ahead of the decider, Nkiyu has beefed up the squad and toughened the youngsters with a couple of high-profile friendly matches, adding his wards would not be scared of their relatively bigger opponents.
“Frankly, I’m not bothered by the physical stature of the Cameroonians because sizes don’t play football.
“We have played friendly matches (ahead of the return leg) against teams we considered physically strong like the Cameroonians and it was opportunity to check the readiness of the girls ahead of the challenge we are going to face.
“I don’t have any doubt about the quality of my players and I know we have the opportunity of going to the World Cup again,” posited Nkiyu, who led the Flamingos to the last world championship held in Jordan 2016.
However, it’s both South Africa and Ghana that have seemingly secured two of the three available continental tickets for Uruguay 2018 after their impressive first leg results. The Ghanaian Black Maidens hammered Djibouti 9-0 in an away tie at the El Hadj Hassan Gouled Stadium and Batsawana thrashed Morocco 5-1 at their Dobsonville Stadium in Soweto near Johannesburg.
On Sunday, Ghana will host Djibouti at the Cape Coast Stadium while Morocco host South Africa’s Bantwana at Stade Boubker Ammar in Sale.
Three teams will qualify to represent Africa at the tournament scheduled for 13 November to 1 December 2018 in Uruguay.