In just over three weeks 24 national teams will compete in this year’s FIFA Under-20 World Cup in Poland. Nigeria is one of the four countries which will represent Africa, along with South Africa, Mali and Senegal.
The Flying Eagles qualified for the World Cup this February when they made the semi-finals of the 2019 Under-20 African Cup of Nations (AFCON) in Niger Republic.
Majority of the squad are from home-based clubs with eight players coming from Europe mostly. The Villareal youngster has received a call-up as well as Kingsley Michael from Bologna. Tom Dele-Bashiru from Man City will also be joining the training camp.
The African based players are coming to Germany together where they will meet with their colleagues who play abroad. Closer to the World Cup, coach Aigbogun will name the final 23-strong squad for Poland.
A total of 22 home-based players were chosen: Olawale Oremade (Oasis FC), Valentine Ozornwafor (Enyimba), Ahmad Ghali, Effiom Maxwell (Enyimba), Matthew Yakubu (Clique Sports Academy), Mike Zaruma (Plateau United), Rabiu Mohammad, Solomon Onome (El-Kanemi Warriors), Ikouwem Udoh Utin (Enyimba), Quadri Liameed (36 Lion FC), Adewale Oladoye, Ernest Chidiebere (Loan One FC), Detan Ogundare (Kogi United FC),Victor Arikpo (Almait World FC), Abubakar Ibrahim (Nottoden FK), Adeshina Gata (Wikki Tourist), Aniekeme Okon (Akwa United), Sor Collins, Aliu Salawudeen (Amunike Academy), Tijani Muhammad (Banik Ostrava), Pascal Durugbor (Växjö United FC), Peter Eletu (Prince Kazeem Football Academy) and Saeed Jibril.
Eight players are coming from clubs around the world: Samuel Chukwueze (Villareal), Kingsley Michael (Bologna), Ash Kigbu (Wolfsberger), Tom Dele-Bashiru (Manchester City), Chinedu Ekene (TSG 1899 Hoffenheim II), Henry Offia (IK Sirius Fotboll), Abubakar Jibril (FC Midtjylland), Hamdi Akujobi (SC Heereveen)
The players will be training for three weeks at the training camp in Ingolstadt, Germany. Afterwards, they are flying to Poland where they will be in Group D with Ukraine, Qatar and the United States. The tournament will start on May 23rd and will last until June 15th.
The best result Nigerian Under-20 squad achieved so far was second place twice, in 1989 when they finished runners-up to Portugal and in 2005 when they lost to Holland in the final game. And there was on third place in 1985 when they beat the hosts Russia (then USSR) to earn the bronze medal. Last time they were in the World Cup was in 2015 when they reached the elimination phase but lost to Germany in the last-16 match.
Coach Paul Aigbogun is hopeful they can finish the group stage in the top two spots in order to reach the elimination stage. The Flying Eagles will play their opening match on May 24th against Qatar, follow by encounters with the USA on May 27th and Ukraine on May 30th.
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