FIFA U-20 World Cup: Its crunch time for Flying Eagles
Tipped for the title even before the first ball was kicked at the on-going New Zealand 2015 FIFA Under-20 World Cup, Nigeria are now battling for survival from the group stage after an opening day 2-4 defeat by Brazil.
The team came into the competition filled with confidence in their ability to show the world that the 2013 U-17 World Cup was no fluke. Some of the players in this team have been rated as among the hottest young properties in world football right now, so Nigerians were right to believe that they were the right players to win the country’s first U-20 World Cup.
However, the team and their followers were brought down to earth by a ruthless Brazil, who once again demonstrated that games are not won before they are played.
The Brazilians were as efficient and organized as the Flying Eagles were disjointed in parts during their opening game of this competition. That game actually took Nigerians back to 1987 in Chile, where an overhyped team comprising Etim Esin, Lawrence Ukaegbu, Adeolu Adekola, Victor Igbinoba, Ladi Babalola, Willy Okpara, Sani Adamu, Nosa Osadolor and Ene Okon were taken to the cleaners by a Brazilian side, who came into the competition claiming they were in awe of the Nigerians. The team went from being favourites to first round losers in Chile 28 years ago.
Although the situations are the same, this crop of Flying Eagles say thunder would not strike again. According to them, after that rude awakening at the Stadium Tanaka, New Plymouth, they have learnt their lessons and would not repeat Monday’s mistakes in their subsequent games.
One of such games comes up by 5.00 a.m. tomorrow against Korea DPR at the same venue.
Acknowledging that their task has become tougher, Coach Manu Garba, who still believes that the result of the last match would have been different if his wards had utilized all their chances, says the team still have their destiny in their hands.
“From now on, every game is a cup final that we must win. It doesn’t matter the pedigree of the opposition… all we are after is to win our games as they come because that is the only way we will achieve our aim of winning tis competition.”
Skipper Musa Mohammed also assured Nigerians that they would get their campaign back on track with a win against Korea.
“We wish to apologise to Nigerians that we lost to Brazil, but we will make it up against North Korea. We will win on Thursday,” said Mohammed.
“We have spoken to ourselves and you will see the result in our next game.”
Manchester City starlet, Kelechi Iheanacho, said he expects a tougher resistance from the Koreans after they also lost their opening game 5-1 to Hungary.
“It won’t be easy against Korea, especially after they lost so woefully to Hungary, but we also know we need to win, no matter the margin,” Iheanacho said.
“Good enough the loss to Brazil does not mean the end of our campaign in New Zealand.”
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