Cup holders Nigeria returned to contention for a place in the semi finals of the 3rd Africa U23 Cup of Nations, coming from a goal down to steamroll Zambia 3-1 in Cairo on Tuesday.
With a quarter of an hour gone, it appeared to be going away for the defending champions as they sat pointless and at the bottom of Group B.
But goals from three former U17 World Cup winners shot Nigeria to second in the group and with a good chance of toppling leaders South Africa when both clash at the same Al Salam Stadium on Friday evening.
Zambia, who drew 0-0 with South Africa in a southern African derby on the opening day, were given a morale-boosting shot when Patson Daka, who also features for the country’s senior team, Chipolopolo, scored in the 11th minute to increase the worries of Nigerians.
However, Orji Okwonkwo levelled for the Olympic Eagles five minutes later, and then Kelechi Nwakali, captain of the Nigeria U17 team that won the FIFA World Cup in Chile four years ago with Okwonkwo also a major act, slammed in a superb free kick in the 65th minute to put Nigeria ahead for the first time in the tournament.
Germany –based forward Taiwo Awoniyi, who also won the U17 World Cup, in 2013, and who arrived in Egypt only on Sunday night, made it three on the stroke of 90 minutes to make Nigerians breathe easier.