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Flying Eagles go in search of 8th AFCON title in Egypt

Nigeria’s national U-20 men’s team, the Flying Eagles of will tomorrow in Cairo, Egypt begin the hunt for an eighth continental title at the U-20…

Nigeria’s national U-20 men’s team, the Flying Eagles of will tomorrow in Cairo, Egypt begin the hunt for an eighth continental title at the U-20 AFCON against the Junior Teranga Lions.

It promises to be a daunting task for Nigeria’s national U-20 side in Egypt as they have been drawn in Group A, alongside hosts Egypt, Senegal, and Mozambique.

However, the Coach Lassan Bosso boys boast of an intimidating record, having won the U20 AFCON a record seven times, with their most recent victory coming in 2015.

They were champions of the AFCON four times in a row in 1983, 1985, 1987, 1989 and 2005, 2011 and 2015 in Senegal. It is also on record that Nigeria came second twice in 1999 and 2007 while winning bronze in 1979, 1981, 1995, 2009 and 2013.

Current coach, Bosso who coached the team between 2007 and 2009 led the Flying Eagles to the quarter finals of the 2007 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Canada, where players such as Brown Ideye, Efe Ambrose, and Elderson Echiejile shone and went on to sign pro contracts in Europe.

In addition to his abundance of experience, Bosso is motivated to put behind him a disappointing return to this position in which he failed to qualify the team for the 2021 U-20 AFCON because he led the Flying Eagles to win the last edition of the WAFU Zone B championship in Niger Republic where the team defeated the Squirrels of Benin Republic 3-1 to qualify for the 2023 AFCON.

Bosso in a chat with journalists also claimed that the present squad is superior to the one that defeated perennial rivals Ghana in the qualifiers.

His assertion is not unfounded as the Flying Eagles have won all their preparatory matches since after their victorious outing in Niger Republic. It is necessary to stress that the Junior Eagles have gone 18 matches unbeaten since booking their ticket to Egypt, with convincing wins against Zambia and Congo in the most recent warm-up games.

Before the two international friendlies, they had played against several teams ranging from academy clubs to NPFL teams such as Lobi Stars, Wikki Tourist and Nasarawa United. The Flying Eagles defeated all except a 1-1 draw with Nasarawa United. They scored a whopping 80 goals and conceded only nine.

Undoubtedly, one of the Flying Eagles strongest characteristics is their excellent physical conditioning, since they can run at peak speed for more than 90 minutes and this can be attributed to Bosso, who began coaching as a fitness trainer.

The team also enjoys attacking at full speed and scoring goals with Bosso setting up his team in 4-3-3 formation to capitalize the teams’ offensive nature.

They move the ball quickly and showcase wingers who enjoy scoring goals as well as providing chances for the top striker. Based on their performances during the friendlies, they will score large wins again if they are more clinical in front of goal, as they were in training camp in Abuja.

Bosso’s squad also includes players like Jude Sunday, Jonathan Nicholas, Onuche Ogbelu Ibrahim Mohammed ‘Beji,’ Ahmed Abdullahi, Haliru Sarki, and Olamilekan Adams, whose individual brilliance might mean the difference between a win and a loss.

‘Beji’ was top scorer in the qualifiers with four goals from the wings, while Jude Sunday from Real Sapphire of Lagos has the magic to be one of the top stars in Egypt.

‘Beji’ led the qualifiers with four goals from the wings, while Jude Sunday of Real Sapphire of Lagos has the talent to be one of Egypt’s best stars.

His direct play constantly causes issues for opposition defenses, and he scores his fair share of goals.

Remo Stars’ Adams Olamilekan has taken on a larger role in the Flying Eagles after being moved from the wings to the center.

In his last four games for this team, he has shown his energy which he used to score and assist goals against Zambia and Congo. His direct play will always cause opposing defenses problems and he also weighs in with his own fair share of goals.

A player who could be on scouts’ radar is goalkeeper Nathaniel Nwosu. He stood out at the U20 AFCON qualifiers in May that he was named in the Tournament Best XI. However, he needs to be more commanding in his area after letting in two cheap goals against Zambia in Abuja.

Daniel Bamaiyi who is the team’s captain has shown that height is not a requirement to be a top defender. He simply gets the job done as he is strong and very solid in his defensive duties. He is complemented by Abel Ogwuche who is almost unbeatable in the air due to his height.

Another player is Haliru Sarki who is known for his blistering pace. He is fast, dribbles past his opponents with ease and played a huge role in the demolition of Zambia as he earned a Man-of-the-Match gong. Sadly, he is bereaved as he lost his father last week and it is hoped the loss won’t affect his morale in Egypt.

It is anticipated that some of the best scouts from big African clubs and international clubs will storm Cairo and this was confirmed by CAF who disclosed they were inundated by an unprecedented high number of applications from scouts and clubs who are seeking accreditation to the event.

The tournament has continued to attract global attention from scouting systems and technical experts from other clubs, who will be present at all three venues. It has served as a breeding ground for African talents who have gone on to thrive on the global arena.

Twelve teams are taking part in this 17th edition and the teams that reach the semi-finals will automatically qualify for the FIFA U-20 World Cup-Indonesia and it is hoped that the Flying Eagles will fly the Nigerian flag at the world championship later in the year.

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