Nigeria’s youth national team, Flying Eagles had their goalkeeper to thank for picking a ticket into the final of this year’s Africa Games’ soccer event on Tuesday, as Detan Ogundare stood out to be counted during a long, nerve-racking penalties’ shoot-out contest with Mali.
The game between both rivals and familiar foes ended goalless at regulation time in Rabat, Morocco, thereby requiring the lottery of spots kicks to separate both teams, just it had been at the Afirca U-20 Cup of Nations in Niger Republic.
Back then, it was Mali who carried the day, thereby extending their dominance over Nigeria at under-20 level, dating back to when they beat the Flying Eagles in Kaduna in the quarter-finals of the World Youth Championship (WYC) hosted by Nigeria in 1999.
However, Tuesday came forth with a different story, and Ogundare was the hero, as he stopped four penalties for Nigeria to beat Mali 5-4, after a marathon spree that saw both sides dramatically lose their first three kicks each.
Ogundare kept his nerve during sudden death, as he stopped Mali’s final kick, thereby giving Nigeria sweet revenge over the team that stopped them at the same stage of the U20 AFCON earlier this year.
The 19-year-old Kogi United of Lokoja shot-stopper, born December 8, 2000, will now hope to be in better form during the final, as Nigeria seek a return to the gold medal they have won only once.
The only time Nigeria has won the Africa Games soccer gold medal was when they hosted the maiden edition of 1973 in Lagos, but they lost to Cameroon at Abuja 2003, such that Ogundare and his colleagues will be out to make history in this week’s final.