Less than two weeks before the start of the 2019 Under-20 African Cup of Nations (AFCON), the Nigerian Under-20 coach Paul Aigbogun has announced the squad he will be taking to the competition.
The 2019 U-20 AFCON will take place in the Niger Republic from February 2nd until February 17th. The Flying Eagles will be competing in Group A together with South Africa, Burundi and the hosts, Niger Republic.
Coach Aigbogun has recently stated that his side will prepare fully for the competition, considering the amount of pressure on the young players since their predecessors have won the Cup of Nations seven times. He also said that he and his team have learned a lot from the final of the preparation tournament in Togo, where they lost to Senegal.
At the start of this week, just before the deadline on Tuesday, the full list of players travelling to Niger has been submitted. The squad will consist out of three goalkeepers, six defenders, five midfielders and seven attacking players. Here is a detailed list:
Olawale Oremade (Oasis FC); Akpan Udoh; Detan Ogundare (Kogi United)
Ikoweum Utin (Enyimba); Olasunkanmi Aliyu (Emmanuel Amuneke Academy); Valentine Ozornwafor (Enyimba); Solomon Ogberahwe (El-Kanemi Warriors); Igoh Ogbu (Rosenborg); Mike Zaruma (Plateau United)
Jamil Muhammad (Kano Pillars); Afeez Aremu (IK Stat); Aniekeme Okon (Akwa United); Peter Eletu (Prince Kazeem Academy); Quadri Liameed (Thirty-Six Lions)
Ibrahim Abubakar (Plateau United); Adamu Alhassan (Kano Pillars); Ibrahim Aliyu (Oasis FC); Yahaya Nazifi (Sonderjyske FC); Maxwell Effiom (Enyimba); Okoh Victor (Real Sapphire FC); Adeshina Gata (Wikki Tourists)
Some players like Nnamdi Ofoborh From Bournemouth and Jayden Bennets from Watford haven’t been called up. Only three players are coming from leagues outside Africa. Ten players have been taken from the NPFL teams.
The squad, along with the supporting staff, is travelling to Nyamei in the Niger Republic on Tuesday 29th January to make final preparations ahead of their opening match.
Nigeria have won the U-20 AFCON a total of seven times, recently in 2011 and 2015. There is great pressure from the fans to play well in this one as well. The main goal is to qualify for the Under-20 FIFA World Cup in Poland later in the year. They will achieve that if they are one of the four semi-finalists of the tournament. That means that either first or second place in the group will do.
The Flying Eagles play their opening match on February 2nd against Burundi and their second game against South Africa on February 5th. Their final match is scheduled for February 8th, when they will take on the hosts Niger Republic.