The 2023 Flying Eagles of Nigeria set will face Argentina in the last-16 of the 2023 U-20 World Cup. In this article, SPORTSRATION previews their chances of surpassing the round of 16 finish by the Ikouwem Utin captained 2019 set.
NIGERIA AT THE 2019 FIFA WORLD CUP
The last FIFA U-20 World Cup was hosted by Poland in 2019.
Nigeria participated in the tournament. That year, the Flying Eagles under the tutelage of Coach Paul Aigbogun reached the last-16 only to be knocked out by fellow African side Senegal.
In that game decided on June 3, 2019, the Flying Eagles trailed 0-2 at halftime following goals from Amadou Sagna and Ibrahima Niane.
A superb start to the second half for the Flying Eagles saw current Remo Stars midfielder Aniekeme Okon score from a Success Makanjoula assist to halve the deficit.
The 2019 Flying Eagles captained by left back Ikouwem Utin did press in vain search for an equalizer but it was not to be as they bowed out following a 1-2 Round of 16 result.
NIGERIA AT THE 2023 FIFA U-20 World Cup
Following the cancellation of the 2021 FIFA U-20 World Cup, Nigeria appearing in the 2023 edition has equaled the round of 16 qualification feat achieved by the 2019 set.
For qualifying as one of the Best 3rd placed teams, the Flying Eagles have drawn group A toppers and hosts Argentina in the round of 16, billed for Wednesday May 31, 2023.
THE BURDEN OF HISTORY
The Flying Eagles will take to turf on Wednesday May 31 vs Argentina with the burden of history hanging around their neck.
In their last three FIFA U-20 World Cup appearances [ 2013, 2015, 2015 ], Nigeria has been eliminated in the last-16.
The 2015 Flying Eagles fell to a 1-0 defeat in the hands of Germany while the 2013 set suffered a 2-1 loss to Uruguay.
Just like the 2019 set, Nigeria finished as one of the best 3rd best placed teams to face the top team in group A.
SQUAD COMPARISON; 2019 VS 2023
A comparison of the playing personnel and group stage performance will place the 2023 Flying Eagles set slightly above their 2019 counterparts.
In 2019, Nigeria managed four points in the group stage from a win vs Qatar and a draw vs Ukraine while the 2023 team amassed six-points following wins over Dominican republic and Italy.
In what was a difficult group, the only reason Nigeria did not finish in the top two was their failing to bang goals vs whipping boys Dominican Republic who gifted Brazil six goals and Italy three to boost their goal difference above the U-20 Eagles following a 6-point tie .
Also, the Ladan Bosso tutored lads were excellent vs Italy and in an improved second half performance vs Brazil to show they can face any team.
CAN THE FLYING EAGLES FLY PAST ARGENTINA
But it will require a special performance as seen vs Italy on May 24 at the Estadio Malvinas Argentinas in Mendoza.
Hosts Argentina will have the support from their fans but that will be tested by a fearless Nigerian team.
To reach the last-16, Argentina secured maximum 9-points to finish top of group A.
The Argentines enter the last-16 tie boosting of an intimidating goal-scoring return of ten goals scored and one conceded plus their history as the most successful team in the competition having won six titles, but against Nigeria they have a tricky opposition far above the challenge posed by their group stage opponents Uzbekistan, New Zealand and Guatemala.
JOIN THE CONVERSATION
Can Nigeria defeat Argentina to break the three-edition last-16 jinx ?