Argentina 2023: NFF plans special motivation for Flying Eagles against ‘stubborn’ Italy
The Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) has promised ‘special motivation’ to aid the Flying Eagles in their battle with their Italian counterparts at the ongoing FIFA U-20 World Cup in Argentina.
The Flying Eagles will tackle Italy in their second game of the competition tomorrow.
While the Flying Eagles defeated Dominican Republic 2-1 in Sunday’s first group game, Italy, against all expectations, beat Brazil 3-2 at the Mendoza Stadium to move to the top of Group D.
Speaking with The Guardian, yesterday, from Argentina, NFF Secretary General, Mohammed Sanusi, said: “The Italians are very good. I watched their match against Brazil and they seem to be good in the air. But we will do everything to motivate the Flying Eagles to beat them. It might be difficult, but beating them (Italy) is not impossible.”
Nigeria trailed the Dominican Republic in Mendoza after Edison Azcona opened the scoring from the spot in the 23rd minute. But the Flying Eagles’ high-intensity approach paid off in the second half, as they equalised through an own-goal by left-back Guillermo de Peña in the 31st, and got the winner in the 70th minute through Samson Lawal.
Italy raced to a 3-0 lead in the Group D match, scoring in the 11th minute through midfielder, Matteo Pratti’s shot from close range. Italy doubled their lead when Brazil goalkeeper Mycael failed to stop a cross and left the ball for a clear header by midfielder, Cesare Casadei, in the 27th minute. Casadei added a third in the 35th from the spot.
However, Brazil regrouped and scored two goals through striker Marcos Leonardo, the first in the 72nd and the second with a header in the 87th, but it was too little too late.
Africa’s champion, Senegal, suffered a 0-1 shock loss to Japan on Sunday at the Diego Maradona Stadium in La Plata, to top Group C. Senegal was stunned early by Japan, as striker Kuryu Matsuki scored in the 15th minute, which allowed the Japanese to sit back.
Brazil and Senegal are among the title favourites at the U-20 World Cup.
While Nigeria faces Italy on Wednesday, Brazil will take on the Dominican Republic, just as Colombia will play Japan. Argentina took Indonesia’s spot in the tournament as hosts and participant, following protests in Muslim-majority Indonesia against hosting Israel. It forced FIFA into a very late switch of venues.