FIFA U-17 WC: Niger starts debut campaign in style

Niger seemed the stronger side from the beginning, with its players throwing their bodies into every tackle and putting their height to good use to win almost all the aerial duels. Abdourahmane scored the winner in Niger’s 1-0 win over DPR Korea

Players in action during the match between Niger and Korea DPR at the Jawaharlal Nehru International Stadium in Kochi on Saturday.   -  PTI

 

Debutant Niger got off to a winning start, as it defeated DPR Korea 1-0 in the evening's second tie at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi on Saturday.

Niger seemed the stronger side from the beginning, with its players throwing their bodies into every tackle and putting their height to good use to win almost all the aerial duels. The side looked more promising in the attacking department as well, racking up 25 attempts, as opposed to North Korea's 14.

Match Centre

 

The match saw many long-range efforts from both sides, with the best one coming from Korea DPR captain Min Yun, whose spectacular effort rattled the crossbar in the 19th minute.

Niger suffered a setback when its captain, Rachid Alfari, suffered an injury and had to be stretchered off in the 30th minute. Soon after, midfielder Kader Aboubacar picked up a yellow card and with that, Niger seemed to be in a bit of trouble, as defender Djibrilla Ibrahim had also been booked in the 13th minute.

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Forward Salim Abdourahmane had a great chance to give Niger the lead at the stroke of half-time, but his effort was fended off by the opposition’s defence. With that, the first half ended goalless and both sides went into the break looking to come up with a match-winning strategy.

A confident Niger came into the second half looking to make history by registering its first goal at the championship and succeeded in doing so in the 59th minute. An inch-perfect cross from the right flank found Abdourahmane in the D, who calmly controlled the ball and eased it past goalkeeper Tae Song Sin, to give his side the all-important lead.

Song Sin had to produce a sharp save to deny Niger a two-goal advantage in the 78th minute, leaving his side with a slim chance of a comeback. Goal-scorer Salim, hungry for another goal, dragged a shot wide of the post in the 80th, leaving the tie largely open, with 10 regulation playing minutes to go.

North Korea was going at it hammer and tongs to snatch a draw but the Niger defence held fort to clinch all three points.

One may call Niger's win beginner’s luck, but it does not take away the pride from the victory. It was evident how much this win meant for the boys, with all of them falling onto their knees in prayer as soon as the final whistle went off.