In the opening match of the 2019 FIFA Under-20 World Cup, Nigeria comfortably beat Qatar 4:0 for a perfect start to the campaign. Even though coach Paul Aigbogun was happy, he knew harder games were yet to come. And so was the case with the United States.
The second group match pitted the Flying Eagles against the Stars and Stripes team who lost to Ukraine in the first game. Playing at the same ground as three days before was a good first step as they prepared ahead of kick-off.
Coach Aigbogun fielded the same team as in the first game, with one change. Instead of Muhammad Tijani, Jerome Akor came into the starting eleven. This was the starting line-up:
Goal – Olawale Oremade
Defence – Ikouwem Udoh, Salawudeen Aliyu, Muhammed Zulkifilu and Valentine Ozornwafor
Midfield – Jamil, Mohammed, Kingsley Michael and Tom Dele-Bashiru
Attack – Effiom Maxwell, Henry Offia and Jerome Akor
It was to be expected that the Americans would start this game more aggressively and it showed right after kick-off. They were 1:0 up after 18 minutes. After a mistake by the Nigerian defence, Sebastian Sato found himself with a free header which he easily slotted home. Minutes later he was in on goal again after more bad defending from the Nigerians, but luckily, his goal was disallowed because of offside.
The Flying Eagles responded and had a few chances of their own. First, Aniekeme Okon made the US Goalkeeper work and a couple of minutes later Effiom hit the bar. Just before the break, the Americans hit the woodwork as well. Still, the score was 1:0 to the United States at halftime.
Unfortunately, the Nigerians weren’t concentrated at the start of the second half and allowed Sato to score his second and USA to double their lead in the 46th minute. Offia had a shot in the 52nd minute which went wide of the goal before Nigeria were awarded a penalty in the 65th minute. However, after consulting VAR, the referee changed his ruling.
By minute 70, Aigbogun had made all three changes but still couldn’t find the net. Because of all the stoppages, there were eight minutes of time added on, but it didn’t help Nigeria at least score a consolation goal.
Ukraine beat Qatar 1:0 and are first in the group table. Nigeria is second because of goal difference with the United States right behind them but level on points. The final group match will decide who will go to the next round.
It was clear to Coach Aigbogun that his defence failed in this match and that his team will have to defend much better against Ukraine in the last group match. The other reason for them failing to score was the early substitution of their most creative player, Tom Dele-Bashiru.
There were hardly any Nigerian fans in Poland to support their team on Monday which could have had an effect too. The last group match is scheduled for Thursday, May 30th starting at 20:30 CET. Nigeria needs a win.