The Flying Eagles of Nigeria have begun their hunt for international glory at the 22nd edition of the biennial Cadet World Cup which began on Thursday in Poland.
The seven-time champions of the African continent, have finished as runners-up at the U-20 World Cup (then known as FIFA World Youth Championship) on two occasions – 1989 and 2005.
Nigeria lost 2-0 to Portugal in 1989 and 2-1 to a Lionel Messi inspired Argentina.
Prior to the commencement of this tournament, the Nigeria Football Federation had organized series of friendly matches to prepare the team for the World Cup.
The Flying Eagles enjoyed a three-week training programme with friendly games nearby in Germany, before moving to the host nation.
Coach Paul Aigbogun in a bid to correct the errors made in Niger Republic, called up key players he deemed fit and key to his plans.
The team’s defence has been seen as a strong point in the Paul Aigbogun’s 4-3-3 formation of the Flying Eagles which allows the use of two centre backs flanked by two full backs, thus the calling up of players such as Plateau United defender, Muhammad Rabiu, Valentine Ozornwafor from Enyimba, Igoh Ogbu who plies his trade with Rosenborg to help execute his plans for his opponents.
Others are Aliu Salawadeen, Jamil Muhammad, Ikouwen Utim among others.
It will be recalled that earlier this year, Nigeria finished their campaign at the 2019 Africa U-20 Cup of Nations on a disappointing note as they were beaten 5-3 on penalties by South Africa’s Amajita.
However, the seven-time African champions have been given another opportunity albeit on the bigger stage to etch their names in the history book.
The feeder team to the Super Eagles began their challenge against Qatar with a 4-0 victory over Qatar on Friday, before taking on USA and Ukraine on May 27 and May 30 respectively in Group D.
The expectations are high for the U-20 side to go a step higher than 1989 and 2005 sets – to be the second African country after Ghana to win the trophy and this was re-echoed by the coach.
Aigbogun told thenff.com on Thursday that the group is aware of the pedigree of Nigeria at the FIFA U20 World Cup and cannot afford to under-perform.
“We have a tough history to match. Silver medals on two occasions and bronze medals once, and a number of quarter final appearances. That’s why we must start very well, by taking the points against Qatar and then march on with confidence and self-assurance.
“We are flying the flag of nearly 200 million Nigerians, as well as that of the African continent. We have put a lot of work into building a squad that will make Nigeria and Africa proud,” he said.
On May 27, Nigerians will know if the team can make it all the way after the game with United States.
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