By Augustine Akhilomen
Nigeria’s Flying Eagles will be hoping to begin their opening fixture of the FIFA U-20 World Cup campaign on a winning note as the team face Qatar at the Tychy Stadium on Friday.
Having finished the tournament as runners-up twice, Nigeria will be aiming to lift the elusive trophy for the first time in Poland.
Coach Paul Aigbogun and his assistants have somewhat calibrated a new ensemble, leaving out half of the squad members from the Africa U20 Cup of Nations in Niger Republic in February, where the team earned the ticket to Poland, and infusing a number of exciting talent in midfield and attacking realms.
However, team captain Ikouwem Udoh Utin, says the players are motivated and determined to make the country proud, starting with the game against Qatar.
“It is a big match for us, as every other match in this competition. We know the importance of picking up the three points in our first match, which is why we are determined to go all out.
“Taking the first three points will help us plan our approach better for the remaining matches in the group phase, and also boost our confidence,” Utin said at the team’s Vienna House Hotel in Katowice on Thursday. The team will leave their hotel in Katowice for the short drive to Tychy on Friday.
Friday’s game kicks off at 5pm Nigeria time. The second match of Group D, between Ukraine and USA, will begin at 7.30pm Nigeria time.
Meanwhile, Aigbogun told thenff.com on Thursday that the group is aware of the pedigree of Nigeria at the FIFA U20 World Cup and cannot afford to under-perform.
“We have a tough history to match. Silver medals on two occasions and bronze medals once, and a number of quarter final appearances. That’s why we must start very well, by taking the points against Qatar and then march on with confidence and self assurance.
“We are flying the flag of nearly 200 million Nigerians, as well as that of the African continent. We have put a lot of work into building a squad that will make Nigeria and Africa proud.”
Nigeria’s World Cup Group Schedule
Friday 24th May, 5pm Qatar vs Nigeria Tychy
Monday 27th May, 7:30pm USA vs Nigeria Bielsko-Biala
Thursday 30th May, 7:30pm Nigeria vs Ukraine Bielsko-Biala