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U-20 FOOTBALL

Flying Eagles avenge 36-year Italian defeat to fly into Round of 16

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Apart from giving the Nigerian side the leadership of Group D of the on-going FIFA U20 World Cup in Argentina, the 2-0 defeat of Italy meant that the the Flying Eagles have avenged a similar defeat that Italy inflicted on the class of 1987 Flying Eagles in Concepcion, Chile.

The 2-0 win has practically put the Flying Eagles into the Round of 16, even if they lose to Brazil and Italy beat Dominican Republic in a possible scenario  that could lead to a tie-breaker as the three would have finished at six-point apiece.

They will still qualify as one of the best third placed teams. In a group that cuts the replica of  Group B of Chile 87, the only change is the presence of Dominican Republic as against Canada.

In contrast to the Chile ‘87 where Nigeria lost all three group matches, they have won the two played so far. A defeat of Brazil in the last match will atone for the disaster of 1987.

The Flying Eagles have been soaring so far. They easily neutralise the offensive of the Italians which in their opening match saw they putting three into the Brazilian net early in the game.

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The Wednesday’s match started with the young Azzuris dominating the possession as expected but the Flying Eagles kept it right especially at the back and wait for the counter-attack

The first half ended goalless, but the Flying Eagles came out in the second half as the stronger side.

Their dominance paid off in the 61st minute when Salim Fago Lawal’s flying header put the two-time finalists ahead.

The Italians tried to come back into the game but found the Nigerian defence difficult to penetrate. Even when the Flying Eagles tried to defend the slim lead and the Italians were in an all-out attack, the counter-breakthrough  of the Flying Eagles paid off.

The Italians would had wished the match ended in regulation time. But the added eight minutes which ought to be to their advantage turned counter-productive.

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Five minute into the added eight, Jude Sunday added the second goal for Nigeria to take the Italians tumbling from the first position to the third.

Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.