Crunch time for the big four

African Youth Championship Semi-finals Ghana       v   S. Africa 2pmCameroon v   Nigeria 5:45pm
SO HELP ME GOD: Nigeria’s players celebrate their second goal against Egypt in the group stage. The Flying Eagles are on course for an unprecedented sixth African youth  title but first they must beat Cameroon in the semifinal this afternoon. (Photo / G.
SO HELP ME GOD: Nigeria’s players celebrate their second goal against Egypt in the group stage. The Flying Eagles are on course for an unprecedented sixth African youth title but first they must beat Cameroon in the semifinal this afternoon. (Photo / G.

African Youth Championship

Semi-finals

Ghana       v   S. Africa 2pm
Cameroon v   Nigeria 5:45pm

The Fifa U-20 World Championship finalists, Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon and South Africa clash in the semi-finals of the African Youth Championship this afternoon at Amahoro stadium, Kigali.

Ghana’s Black Satellites face South Africa in the first of the 16th African Youth Championship semi-finals to be followed by the battle between two West African archrivals Cameroon and Nigeria.

South Africa set up a mouth-watering semifinal meeting against Ghana after making the last four of the African Youth Championships by the narrowest of margins.

The Amajita lost 12-1 to 2009 World Youth Championship hosts Egypt but qualified ahead of the North Africans on goal difference to finish second in group B.

Coach Letsoaka Serame believes playing against Ghana will not be an easy test but is expected to rely on his game plan to make his ambition come true.

“Obviously the game against Ghana will be tough but I have taken my boys to the drawing board and they know the least they want against Ghana.

“Our playing style will not change and I hope to field five midfielders as I did against Ivory Coast to make things easy for the defenders and the strikers as well,” Serame said, adding that Amajita Stars will play a swift inter-passing play. His Ghanaian counterpart, Sellas Tetteh said that his side is motivated and hopeful to go past South Africa.

“I hope to maintain the momentum that the team has had in the group stage. I have a team which has shown characteristics of a winning team,” Tetteh said, adding that for Ghana to  go  past the semi-final stage, his players must maintain their discipline.

Ghana last won the Africa Youth Championship in 1999 on home soil and triumphed at the 1993 edition in Mauritius. 

South Africa last reached the AYC final in 1997 and lost 1-0 to Morocco.

In what promises to the most thrilling match of the day, Cameroon will come up against fierce rivals Nigeria.

Nigeria topped Group B by virtue of superior goal difference after they tied on six points each with South Africa and Egypt. Cameroon emerged the second placed in group B with five points. Against Cameroon, Nigeria’s coach Ladan Bosso who is under fire has another chance to keep his job.

It will, therefore, not only be a sweet revenge should Nigeria beat Cameroon on their way to the eighth AYC final, but also a point in favour of Bosso in persuading the powers-that-be that he is the right man for this job.

“I have the players to do the job and they know Cameroon very well. We have been rivals on the pitch and we will play collectively and display our best football to win,” Bosso said.

Coach Alain Wabo is assured Cameroon will handle Nigeria with due respect.

“We know how to handle the Flying Eagles at this stage. It will be difficult game.”

“They will be under pressure to win because we have defeated them in the past competitions and my boys know better how to handle their pressure,” said Wabo.

“Nobody wants to miss out on the AYC title and I hope you understand when I say we want the title. We want nothing short of a win over Nigeria,” Wabo said.

Nigeria has been African U-20 champions five times; 1983, 85, ‘87, ‘89 and 2005 and expectations are high that the current team can win the trophy in style this year.

The Flying Eagles is built around the players who won the Fifa Under-17 World Cup in Korea two years ago with such aplomb.

Nigeria and Cameroon are neighbors and big rivals in the international game.

In the qualifying series for the Fifa World Youth Championship in Australia in 1981, Nigeria lost 3-2 to Cameroon in Lagos and 1-0 in Yaounde.

Today’s game is a repeat of the two teams semi final clash in Nigeria in 1995, when the young Indomitable Cubs beat the Flying Eagles 2-1 in Kaduna and crashed Burundi 4-0 to lift the trophy.

Ends

 

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