Nigeria’s hope of defending their African Youth Championship crown, Tuesday went into smoke as Egypt’s U-20 team thrashed the Flying Eagles 2-0 in a semi-final game decided at the Ain Temouchet.
After managing to scrape into the last four of the eight-nation tournament, which also served as the qualifier for the forthcoming FIFA U-20 World Cup in Turkey, the John Obuh-tutored team played without vision as they wasted the early chances that came the way of their strikers.
Kayode Olarenwaju, who missed the last Group B match against the D.R. Congo, was the worst culprit of the day, as his selfish play robbed the team of numerous scoring chances.
It was so bad that the Eagles played without wings for most part of the match. Even though they had more ball possession in the first half, which ended goalless, it was clear that the Nigerians were just living on past glory.
In the second half, the Egyptians, who topped Group A, came out with a new approach and deservedly scored a quick-fire goal in the 46th minute, through Monem Hamid Mahmoud.
Kayode, in the first two Group games of the Flying Eagles, showed how wasteful he was in front of goal and when he missed the last group match on Saturday, his replacement, Aminu Umar, showed the star in him by scoring a brace to seal Nigeria’s place in the last-four.
But against all wisdom of modern-day football, Obuh brought back the out of touch Kayode and Nigeria paid dearly for his tactical blunder.
Despite pushing forward without any real threat of scoring, the Nigerians looked like untrained boys in the mine-field of war against the Egyptians, who showed maturity, calmness and purpose in attack.
The Pharaohs’ tactical superiority was again to show 14 minutes from regulation time when Mahmoud netted his second of the night to end Nigeria;s miserable run at the competition.