By Ugochukwu Nwankwo – Sports Editor
Coach Joseph Koto and his ‘LES LION DE LA TERANGA’ [Young lion of Teranga] defeated the flying eagles of Nigeria by 2-1 at the Lodz stadium, Poland, to send the Nigerian boys packing as they progress to the last “8” [Quarter-finals].
At halftime, Senegal were already 2 goals up courtesy Amadou Sagna and Ibrahim Niane. They had opportunities to get more but failed to covert. The flying eagles on the other hand were restricted to short passes, Thanks to a brilliant and compact Senegalese Midfield.
Barely five minutes into the second half, Nigeria pulled a goal back, it was a Simon Makanjuola freekick that took a deflection off Okon and into the back of the net.
The game fizzled out, the flying eagles huffed and puffed for another, to no avail however each time the Senegalese boys come attacking they looked more likely to score.
A day before the match, Randa Andrew, media officer of the flying eagles spoke to a media outlet on Sunday and insisted the boys would shock Nigerians.
“The boys have trained better, they know they were lucky to qualify to the round of 16.
He also added,
When they were told they will be facing Senegal in the next round, they seem to be happy. I think Senegal are familiar foes, our African brothers and the boys would be out for revenge”
Yet, Coach Paul Aigbogun boys were dumped out, their style of play was not encouraging.
The boy’s shambolic exits raised lots of despair on social media, Nigerians were expressing uncladded displeasures.
Throughout the tourney, The flying eagles could only manage one win, that came in the emphatic 4-nil victory over Qatar, they went on to lose 2-0 to USA and held Ukraine to a 1-1 score draw in the last game of the group stage.
After qualifying as best losers they ended up losing again to Senegal. Which now means the flying eagles has reached the end of the road, They are now scheduled to leave Poland and return home to Nigeria.
•The Talking Points•
1. Was this the best players under the age of 20 we have in Nigeria?
Many would out-rightly say ‘NO’ and they won’t be far from the truth. The boys on parade in Poland 2019 lacked the charisma of a youthful side.
Let’s cast out minds back to 2007, we were knocked out In the quarterfinals but we had players that were charismatic and known by Nigerians like Brown Ideye, Efe Ambrose, Echeijele Elderson, Ikechukwu Ezenwa.
2009, we didn’t play up to par but we had players who were showing hunger to play like Odion Jude Ighalo, Haruna Lukman, Obiora Nwankwo, Gbolaban Salami.
2011, we had Ramon Azeez, Kenneth Omeruo, Ajagun, Olanrewaju Kayode and Ahmed Musa, these players reached the quarterfinals, they scared opponents and played really well.
Let’s take a quick jump to 2015, excitement galore, those boys were fun to watch, am talking about Captain Musa Muhammed, Wilfred Ndidi, Yahaya, Moses Simon but if you were asked to call at least one player with Charisma in this 2019 it would be more difficult than peeling orange with bare hands.
2. Tactically what went wrong?
The Coach Paul Aigbogun had no foundation laid out for the boys, all he probably told them was “pass to each other and when your Opponents try to mark any of you showcase yourself so you can sign a deal abroad”. There was no pattern of play, something these boys could work with and master. They also lacked a leadership presence, like Ambrose Efe 07′ or Musa Muhammed 15′ even a Kenneth Omeruo 11′
3. Were these boys truly under the age of 20?
The administration in charge of selecting and scouting these players holds the true answers. We can only be speculative. If they are above too it still didn’t show on the field that they were matured mentally.
4. For the past 14 years, we have failed to exceed the “Quarterfinals”, is there a specific reason for that?
Firstly let’s check the transition of the u17 players, due to hunger for International deals some of these players do not graduate to the u20’s as Europeans do.
Also due to age cheating, some of these players will clearly start looking too old for the u20 after just playing for the u17.
Well, we still have those players that want to jump from u17 to the national team, all these are the political aspect of the game, ranging from board room decisions to administrators.
Our u20 will go far if we allow these players follow the proper age grade processes and not rush those who can afford to bribe their way to the national team and recruit reputable scouts, not Greeds and Money mongers that brings only players that can afford to bribe them. God help our football because corruption is already rooted deep into the system.