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Thursday, September 28, 2023

AFCON U-20: Nigeria’s Flying Eagles edge Uganda for semifinal spot, FIFA qualification

A first half own goal gave Nigeria all they needed in a 1-0 quarterfinal defeat of Uganda at the 2023 Africa U-20 Cup of Nations, qualifying the Flying Eagles for both the semifinals as well as the 2023 FIFA U-20 World Cup later this year in Indonesia. Uganda midfielder Ibrahim Juma was powerless to stop the ball ricocheting off him and into his own net in the first half after Nigeria forward Ibrahim Muhammed’s shot smashed off the post. However there will be no complaints for the Nigeria team who will play on Monday against the winner of Friday’s quarterfinal between The Gambia and South Sudan.

Thursday’s second quarterfinal matchup was a close fought affair as expected and the Uganda team had their chances. Uganda midfielder Ivan Irinimbabazi rose up to send a firm header on target from a corner kick in the 9th minute but Nigeria goalkeeper Chijioke Aniagboso did well to secure the shot attempt.

It was shortly before the half hour mark when the match took a decisive turn. Uganda’s Rogers Mugisha arrived at the near post to flick over a Travis Mutyaba corner kick and the Nigerian team moved quickly into action following the ensuing goal kick. A long ball caught the Ugandan defense off guard and Muhammad reacted quickest to collect the ball on the left side of the Hippos’ penalty area. Muhammad cut inside and unleashed a powerful strike that rattled off the near post, off Juma and back into the goal before he could react.

Uganda attempted to claw back into the match after the halftime break. Captain Isma Mugulusi got on the end of a fluid team movement near the hour mark but could only direct his shot at Aniagboso from close range. Nigeria had their chances to put the match away but poor finishing from both sides resulted in a goalless second half that was just fine with the Flying Eagles, who celebrated their qualification for the under-20 World Cup that will take place starting in late May.

Highlights from the second quarterfinal on Thursday are below.