Flying Eagles target World Cup ticket, championship title
National U-20 team’s head coach, Paul Aigbogun says the Flying Eagles will strive to win the forthcoming African Junior Championship in Niger Republic as well as a ticket to the FIFA U-20 World Cup. The 21st edition of the competition will hold from February 2 to 17.
The seven-time African champions tango with host nation ,Niger Republic, South Africa and Burundi in Group A of the competition, with only the two top-placed teams to progress to the semifinals and guaranteed automatic berths at this summer’s FIFA U20 World Cup finals in Poland.
“We must first plan on earning a ticket to the World Cup finals,” Aigbogun told thenff.com. “There would definitely be no margin for error in the first two matches. Once we are able to secure maximum points from the first two matches, we would have one leg at the World Cup.
“Afterwards, we would then begin to plan for the trophy. Focus and tactics must be for one match at a time. We cannot afford to falter.”
Team Administrator Aliyu Ibrahim Lawal confirmed yesterday that the Flying Eagles’ delegation would now depart for Niamey, venue of their group phase matches on Thursday.
Burundi’s Junior Itamba, Nigeria’s first opponents in Niger Republic are a toughened bunch having had to wade through three rounds of qualifiers to land in Niger Republic. They trounced Ethiopia 3-0 on aggregate, shot past Sudan 3-1 after both legs and then side-tracked Zambia by the same margin.
South Africa, Nigeria’s second opponents, prevailed 4-1 over Mozambique before defeating Malawi 2-0 on aggregate to make sure of a place in Niger.
Hosts Niger Republic qualified automatically but was at the WAFU U20 Tournament in Lome last month, where they battled to a scoreless draw with the Flying Eagles in a group phase encounter.
The Flying Eagles defeated Guinea Bissau 3-2 on aggregate before victimizing Mauritania 6-1 on aggregate to qualify.
All four semifinalists in Niger Republic will represent Africa at the FIFA U20 World Cup finals in Poland, scheduled for May 23 to June 15.
Nigeria’s team to the championship include three goalkeepers, Akpan Udoh (Unattached); Olawale Oremade (Oasis FC); and Detan Ogundare (Kogi United). There are six defenders, including Skipper Ikouwem Utin (Enyimba FC); Mike Zaruma (Plateau United); Igoh Ogbu (Rosenburg FC, Norway); Solomon Ogberahwe (El-Kanemi Warriors); Valentine Ozornwafor (Enyimba FC); and Olasunkanmi Aliyu (Emmanuel Amuneke Academy).
The midfielders are Peter Eletu (Prince Kazeem Academy); Quadri Liameed (36 Lions); Aniekeme Okon (Akwa United); Jamil Muhammad (Kano Pillars); and Afeez Aremu (IK Stat, Norway), while Adamu Alhassan (Kano Pillars); Yahaya Nazifi (Sonderjyske FC, Denmark); Ibrahim Aliyu (Oasis FC); Adeshina Gata (Wikki Tourists); Ibrahim Abubakar (Plateau United); Onyekachi Paschal (Vaxjo United, Sweden); and Maxwell Effiom (Enyimba FC) will forage for goals.
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