The Junior Eagles of Mali have qualified for the final of the 2019 Africa U-20 Cup of Nations taking place in the Niger Republic.
After playing 1-1 in regulation time, the Malians held their nerves to beat Nigeria 4-3 in the ensuing penalty kicks in the nervy semifinal match played Wednesday at the Stade General Seyni Kountche.
The Nigeria U-20 team were seen as the firm favourites going into the semifinal contest having previously won this tournament on seven different occasions. The Malians are yet to win the competition.
The Flying Eagles won the Group A that had host nation Niger Republic, South Africa and Burundi, finishing with seven points. They defeated Burundi and Niger Republic while drawing with South Africa.
Mali finished second in Group B with six points after victories over Burkina Faso and Ghana and defeat by Senegal.
It was the Malians that scored first in Wednesday’s encounter before the Flying Eagles drew level four minutes from time. The game then extended into extra time and then penalty kicks.
In the ensuing penalty kicks, Nigeria lost two out their five kicks while the Junior Eagles of Mali lost just once thus winning 4-3.
It was sweet revenge for the Malians who also met with the Flying Eagles in the WAFU U20 Cup Tournament in Lome, Togo in December 2018.
Just like today, Mali led by a lone goal in one of the semifinal matches until the 82nd minute, before defender Valentine Ozornwafor brought Nigeria level. The Flying Eagles then won on penalty shoot–out on that occasion.
With Mali through to the final, they would be waiting for the winner of the second semifinal between Group B winners Senegal and South Africa.
The Lionceau du Teranga won all their matches in the group phase, scooping the maximum nine points, and would reach their third consecutive final of the Africa U20 Cup of Nations if they defeat the Amajita. They were in the final of the 2015 championship that they hosted, losing to Nigeria, and also lost in the final of the 2017 competition to host nation Zambia.