Coach Isah Ladan Bosso believes he has the men to push Uganda’s Hippos off the way in their Africa U20 Cup of Nations quarter-final duel on Thursday and reach the FIFA U20 World Cup finals scheduled for Indonesia, 20th May – 11th June.
Both teams clash at the 22,000 -capacity Suez Canal Authority Stadium in Ismailia as from 7pm Egypt time (6pm Nigeria time) on Thursday, and the Flying Eagles’ tactician says that while he does not underrate the Hippos, he trusts his charges to make Nigeria proud and reach the tournament’s last four.
“Before we left our training camp in Morocco, the NFF President, Alhaji Ibrahim Musa Gusau told us clearly that the first objective should be getting a ticket to the FIFA World Cup. We are at that most important stage now and we cannot afford to falter.
“We are aware that Nigerians are looking up to us to deliver. While our mission remains bagging the World Cup ticket, we are also eyeing the trophy, which is still a number of matches away. For the moment, we have Uganda in our view and we are working hard to see that we control proceedings on Thursday.”
Two-time silver medallists and one-time bronze medallists Nigeria are seeking to make another appearance at the FIFA U20 World Cup finals. They finished in third place when the tournament was staged in then USSR in 1985, beating the host nation on penalty shoot-out in the bronze medal match. Four years later, in Saudi Arabia, the Flying Eagles lost 0-2 to Portugal in a classic Final in Riyadh. And in 2005, Lionel Messi and Argentina were 2-1 winners in the Final match in The Netherlands.
The Hippos of Uganda finished top of their Group B which also included Congo, South Sudan and the Central African Republic. They defeated Central African Republic 2-1, and drew 2-2 and 0-0 with Congo and South Sudan respectively. It took a drawing of lots by the Confederation of African Football to separate Uganda and Congo and determine the winner of Group B, as both teams finished with the same statistics.
Meanwhile, the Flying Eagles will be without the services of team captain Daniel Bameyi due to accumulation of two yellow cards. The defender was cautioned twice in the group games against Senegal and Mozambique.
In the other quarter-final games, nine-pointer The Gambia will take on fresh birds South Sudan, who shocked Central African Republic 1-0 and drew 0-0 with Uganda to finish in third place in Group B with four points. Their only defeat was a 1-2 reverse against Congo. The match will hold at the Haras El-Hedood Stadium in Alexandria on Friday.
On Thursday, before the Flying Eagles take on Uganda in Ismailia, Group A winners Senegal will tango with Benin Republic at the Cairo International Stadium. The Young Cheetahs finished in third place in Group C with only two points having drawn with Zambia and Tunisia, but unlucky to concede an own goal two minutes to the end of their encounter with group winners The Gambia on Monday.
The last quarter-final duel is between Congo and Tunisia, at the Cairo International Stadium on Friday evening. The North Africans pulled their weight to defeat Zambia 2-1 on Monday, after having lost 0-1 to The Gambia and drawing 0-0 with Benin Republic earlier in Group C.
All four winners will advance to the semi-finals of the competition, but more importantly, qualify to represent Africa at the FIFA U20 World Cup finals in Indonesia.