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2023 U-20 AFCON Qualifying: Nigeria finally gets their winner in extra time against Ivory Coast, will meet Benin in WAFU-B final

Nigeria dominated their semifinal matchup at the WAFU-Zone B qualifying competition for the 2023 Africa U-20 Cup of Nations against Ivory Coast but missed chance after chance, forcing the teams to go into extra time following a 1-1 draw in regulation. However, the Flying Eagles finally got the breakthrough they were looking for when a penalty kick was awarded and Ibrahim Yahaya slammed home the winning spot kick in the 112th minute. Nigeria clinch a spot at the 2023 U-20 AFCON in Egypt alongside Benin and will play Les Écureuils in the final for the WAFU-B region.

The Nigerian side got off to a dream start in the 5th minute when Ibrahim Muhammad’s corner kick resulted in disaster for Ivorian goalkeeper Issa Fofana, who flapped at the ball and missed to allow Daniel Daga an easy header into the empty net. Ivory Coast fought back and nearly equalized just after the half hour mark but Abdramane Konaté burst through the middle for a wide open look on goal, Nigeria keeper Nathaniel Nwosu did brilliantly to get his glove down and hold onto Konaté’s shot.

Nigeria had the first of several golden opportunities and could have doubled their lead in the 42nd minute, but after receiving a wide open look from a cross by Adams Olubi, Tolulope Ojo stumbled before having his shot cleared off the line by an Ivorian defender. The junior Elephants would make them pay for their wastefulness just before halftime after earning a free kick just outside the Nigerian box. Seydou Traoré sent a brilliant effort just inside the far post to leave Nwosu motionless.

Both teams had their chances to win it in the second half but a goal was not meant to be. Muhammad set up Olubi a couple of minutes after halftime but a brave sliding challenge from Ivory Coast left back Valy Konaté denied Olubi. In the 70th minute, Nigeria substitute Ahmed Abdullahi got by two Ivorian defenders on the left wing and crossed to find Yahaya but another last ditch challenge arrived to save the day for Ivory Coast. The Ivorians had their own opportunity to steal the win in the 88th minute but Theo Julien Yolou was denied by Nwosu.

Finally, Nigeria found their breakthrough in extra time when it seemed a penalty kick shootout would be the only way to determine a winner. Ojo drove by Ivorian center back Aboubacar Sylla and went down to leave the referee pointing to the penalty spot in the 110th minute. Soon after it was Yahaya who stepped up and left no doubt as he blasted home to win it for the Flying Eagles.

Highlights of the second semifinal are below.

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