Ghana crash out of 2025 U-17 AFCON qualifiers after defeat to Nigeria

The Black Starlets lose the 2024 WAFU Zone B U-17 Cup of Nations third-place playoff to the Golden Eaglets of Nigeria to finish fourth in the competition

Ghana’s U-17 men’s national team, the Black Starlets, have seen their hopes of qualifying for the 2025 U-17 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) dashed following a narrow 3-2 defeat to arch-rivals Nigeria in the 2024 WAFU Zone B U-17 Cup of Nations third-place playoffs on Tuesday (28 May).

The Starlets needed at least a third-place finish in the regional tournament, hosted in Accra, to be in contention for the continental finals, as confusion still surrounds the qualification process for the 2025 U-17 AFCON as the Confederation of African Football (CAF) is yet to confirm the number of teams that will participate.

Nigeria took the lead early in the ninth minute through Imrana Muhammad, capitalising on defensive frailties by the Starlets.

The setback sparked the Ghanaians into action, with the team dominating possession and creating several chances.

Their efforts paid off in the 19th minute when captain Benjamin Tsivanyo’s corner found defender Herve Gbafa, who headed home the equaliser.

Gbafa doubled Ghana’s lead ten minutes later when he converted a freekick by Mark Kagawa Mensah with a clever backheel that deceived Nigerian goalkeeper Chinedu Dominic.

However, defensive lapses continued to plague the Starlets, allowing Abdulmuiz Adeleke to restore parity for the Golden Eaglets just before halftime.

The second half saw the Black Starlets maintain control but squander numerous scoring opportunities. Their wastefulness proved costly in the dying moments of the game.

After hitting the woodwork, Adeleke pounced on a poor clearance from defender Hamza Iddrisu to slot home the winning goal for Nigeria in the 92nd minute.

This defeat marks the Black Starlets’ third consecutive absence from the U-17 AFCON, having missed out on the 2019 and 2021 editions. The team will now have to regroup and focus on qualifying for the 2029 tournament.

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