Thanks to a 1:1 draw with Ukraine, Nigeria made it to the U20 FIFA World Cup knockout stages. However, the match against Oleksandr Petrakov’s troops was anything but a walk in the park for the Nigerian national team.
Nigeria kicked off their U20 World Cup campaign with a thrilling 4-0 win over Qatar, but the United States of America proved to be a big catch for the Flying Eagles (0-2). As a result, Paul Aigbogun’s troops needed only one point from the last group game to advance to the last 16 as one of four third-placed teams.
Coach Pual Aigbogun fielded this starting line-up against Ukraine:
Goal: Olawale Oremade
Defence: Muhammad Rabiu, SalawudeenAliyu, IgohOgbu and Udo Utin
Midfield: Kingsley Michael, Aniekeme Okon, Nnamidi Ofoborth, Maxwell Effiom and Success Makanjuola
Attack: Mohamed Tijani
Nigeria dominated the game from the start, but Ukraine eventually broke the deadlock. Oleksil Kashchuk produced a beautifully lofted cross into the box, with Danylo Sikan rising high to head the ball into the left corner of the goal.
The Flying Eagles, though, had a chance to level the score on the stroke of half-time as referee Fernando Rapallinipointed to the spot after Oleksandr Safronov’s unfair challenge. However, Ukraine goalkeeper saved Muhamed Tijani’s penalty and, as a result, Paul Aigbogun’s team were desperate to find the net in the second half of the match.
Nigeria were awarded yet another penalty after 51 minutes, but this time out Mohamed Tijani won the battle of wills and scored the equalizing goal.
The Flying Eagles then adopted a defence-minded approach and seeing that both teams were happy with one point, there were no goals in the remainder of the match.
Nigeria totally deserved to book their place in the knockout stages of the U20 FIFA World Cup as they had 12 goal attempts in the 1-1 draw with Ukraine while taking no less than 8 corner kicks.
Paul Aigbogun’s men advance to the next phase as one of four third-placed sides and they will face Senegal or Italy in the last 16.
The Flying Eagles failed to qualify for the 2017 FIFA U20 World Cup, with the team suffering elimination to Germany in the last 16 of the 2015 tournament. Nigeria did well to repeat the success, but they do not want to stop now. Paul Aigbogun has a number of talented players to choose from who are definitely capable of making history at the showpiece youth tournament in Poland.
Regardless of the opponent, Nigeria will play their next game at the U20 World Cup on Sunday or Monday.