The Young Menas Make a Statement

Satish Sekar
By Satish Sekar February 3, 2019 15:43

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The Young Menas Make a Statement

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By Satish Sekar at Niamey’s Stade General Seyni Kountché © Satish Sekar (February 2nd 2019)

Point Gained

Both Niger and South Africa were content, if not satisfied, with a point apiece, from their 1-1 draw which opened the 21st Under-20 AFCON tournament in Niger – their first hosting at this level. Boubacar Goumey scored the historic goal – the first in the competition, although the hard work was done by Abdoul Amoustafa on the right flank with a sublime assist by Nigerien Champions AS Sonidep’s Mahamadou Sabo – so sublime that most observers missed his touch a delicate back-heel into the path of Goumey.

South Africa shorn of three important players, were forced out of defensive mode and duly obtained the equaliser after Fezile Gcaba’s header at the near post earned a share of the points. With Nigeria in the group and facing Burundi afterwards, it could be a tale of two points lost by both teams, but neither coach, Soumaïla Tiemogo, nor Thabo Senong, saw it that way. Both were content if not satisfied with the point.

Hosting

“Niger never hosted this competition, so it will be the first time, and the first time that our national team played in this competition first, and playing at home will be explosive,” the young Menas’ coach Soumaïla Tiemogo told me yesterday. He wasn’t wrong.

Tiemogo saw his team take the lead through Boubacar Goumey almost ten minutes into the second half, after excellent work by Abdoul Amoustafa on the right flank, who cut it back for Mahamadou Sabo. A deft back-heel on the edge of the six-yard box into the path of Boubacar Goumey left the striker the easy part.

It forced Senong’s team to come out more. With 20 minutes remaining South Africa earned a share of the points as Fezile Gcabo headed in at the near post. Tiemogo wasn’t happy with the defending, but despite leading he was content with a point as South Africa are a good team.

Preparations

Senong admitted that the preparations were not the best. He could not get players released for the tournament. His captain was suspended and his first-choice keeper couldn’t play. And he did not get the friendly he wanted. It looks like back to the drawing board against Nigeria.

Forget the rather drab first half where each side probed the other with Senong’s South Africa adopting a more defensive approach than might have been expected – it opened up in the second half.

Niger wasn’t settling for a point. A spectacular effort by Ibrahim Namata in the first half from the edge of the right flank almost embarrassed South Africa’s keeper Glen Baadjies as it hit the crossbar and he hurt his head on the far post. That was the highlight of the first half. It stayed 0-0, but not for long.

Within ten minutes of the restart, South Africa had to change the game plan as Niger’s persistence paid off. Sabo was the pick off the players on display. As well as the assist he brought the best out of Baadjies 6 minutes into the second half, forcing the second-choice keeper to tip over.

With Nigeria yet to play, it remains to be seen if this a point gained, or two lost for both teams.

Satish Sekar
By Satish Sekar February 3, 2019 15:43