Nigeria's U20 team

Mixed feelings trail Flying Eagles 2023 AFCON performance


The seven-time winners of the U-20 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON), Flying Eagles, began the 17th edition on a shaky note losing 1-0 to Senegal last Sunday but revived their title hopes with a hard fought 1-0 win over hosts, the Young Pharaohs of Egypt. Today, the Nigerians have the chance to pick the quarter-finals ticket if they defeat Mozambique in the last game of Group B. It will be recalled that the team prior to the tournament had gone 18 matches unbeaten with wins against Zambia and Congo in the most recent warm-up games. However, their performances in the two matches in Egypt elicited mixed reactions from Nigerians who had high hopes on the team. Ahead of their final Group A match against Mozambique scheduled for today at the Cairo International Stadium, Trust Sports spoke with a cross section of fans who expressed different views on the performance of the team.


Michael Otobo who plays as a defensive midfielder for Abuja based Casmatt FC said he wasn’t impressed with the team’s performance in Egypt but victory is all that matters.

“I watched their friendly games and we expected a lot from them. As a footballer, I know things might not go as planned. Other teams also want to win. However, their victory over the host nation should boost their confidence going into the game against Mozambique.

“Nigerian football is very close to Brazilian football as both countries play with flair but they must grind out the result. We want to see beautiful football but what matters is the result,” he said.

Casmatt FC coach, Riches Ofohndu nicknamed coach Vierra said he noticed a lack of cohesion in the team

“For me, their performances have been below par. They look disjointed. We won the WAFU U-20 and from what I am seeing the crop of players from the tournament are not the ones playing and you don’t build a team that way. There is no cohesion in that team.

“They struggled against the Egyptians who had more chances than us but we were lucky to get that one goal. There is so much individual play, not team play. They won all their friendly games which should have helped the cohesion of the team. I just want them to get the World Cup ticket which should be the target. But if they win the cup in Egypt, that will be great.

“First thing, they should defeat Mozambique. As a coach, I don’t want a draw but outright win. They can be like the Fanny Amu team of those days, let them fumble and wobble to the semi-finals,” he stated.

Emmanuel Chuks Ijeoma also known as Ghaddaffi who is the Chairman, Abuja Municipal football council and special assistant to FCT FA chairman said he does not have full confidence in the team but urged them to get the World Cup ticket.

“I was not impressed with their first game against Senegal. They failed to comport themselves taking into cognizance their friendly matches. It was expected that they put the ball together technically as the coaches taught them but they failed to live up to their billing against Senegal and even Egypt. Though we won, which is important, the play was not there.

“As we progress along, it is good to say we can beat Mozambique but football is not that way. The most important thing is to see how they can qualify for the World Championship and reorganize to bring the boys to World Cup level.

“What they are playing now is not World Cup standard. The players may be good but what they are giving us is not what we expected. I don’t have full confidence in the team but they can prove us wrong,” he said.

Michael Steven, a footballer with Basic Maracana said the team was lucky to get a win over Egypt

“I was impressed by their performance in the game against Senegal and with the victory over Egypt, we saw an improved side. I just feel this set is very good. I want them to utilize their chances.

“The defence is solid but our attack is not potent enough. I noticed some lack of tactics which is the work of the coach but we are there technically and physically.

“Egypt were better tactically but we were lucky to get the win. Again, our boys need to be calmer, have less ego and pride. We saw that against Senegal where our striker was sent off because he wasn’t calm enough,” he said.

Joseph Babatunde who also plays with Basic Maracana said the boys should show more patriotism.

“I have been following the team for some time now and what I am expecting from them is patriotism. Wearing the national team jersey should be seen as a blessing.

“We can conquer a lot of nations with that mindset. They are trying and the coaches are doing well. I just want them to show more patriotism. There are many players who want to be in the team so they shouldn’t take their opportunity for granted,” he said.

On his part, a Canada-based journalist, Adewale Ajayi, said that despite the many friendly matches that the Flying Eagles played before 2023 AFCON, they have no tactical balance in their style of play.

“I am not impressed. I saw the Flying Eagles who could not put four passes together, a team that was struggling to make passes and battling to impress.

“I thought that based on the results we saw in the friendly matches, the team would do better than what we saw. I must say that I am not impressed.

“I am happy that we beat Egypt. That is a good tonic for the Flying Eagles to qualify for the World Cup but beyond qualification, there is still a lot of work to be done.

“I am sure that they are going to beat Mozambique and qualify for the World Cup but if this is the team we are going with to the World Cup, then we have no team,” he said.

Another sports journalist, Arabi Rotimi, described the present Flying Eagles as not good enough to produce the needed result, saying that the team is a reflection of dwindling fortunes in the country’s football.

“The Present Flying Eagles are just a set of average footballers. They are still not convincing yet. However, if they qualify for the World Championship, they have a lot of work to do,” he noted.

Read the original article on Daily Trust.


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