With only two matches to the trophy, Flying Eagles Chief Coach, Paul Aigbogun is already thinking of ending his campaign at the on-going African U-20 Nations Cup as champions. The final will hold this weekend, but before then, Nigeria still has to sort out Mali in the semifinals on Wednesday. And Aigbogun believes the game is another step to becoming African champions.
Aigbogun’s wards defeated Mali 1-0 in the semifinals of the West African Football Union (WAFU) U-20 Nations Cup in Lome, Togo and the coach believes that thunder would strike on the same spot in Niamey on Wednesday.
Mali came second in Group B behind Senegal, while Nigeria topped Group A, which comprised South Africa, Niger Republic and Burundi.
All the four teams in the semifinals have already qualified for the FIFA U-20 World Cup scheduled for Poland later this year. However, winning the competition in Niger Republic would give the victor the honour of going to Poland as African champions.
Speaking after Friday’s defeat of hosts in the last group game, Aigbogun said his team was ready for any opposition they meet in the semifinals. And in Mali, the coach is relishing another epic battle with the fellow West Africans.
“At this stage of the competition I do not think we have a particular preference for a team we want to meet in the semifinals. We are in a competition where we take the opponents as they come,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) First Vice-president, Seyi Akinwunmi has promised that the Flying Eagles will continue to receive adequate support from the soccer governing body.
Speaking ahead of Wednesday’s game against Mali, Akinwunmi said the nation’s U-20 side would need more backing to step up their efforts and qualify for Sunday’s final game.
Akinwunmi then charged the team to go all out to beat Mali, who got to the last-four by pipping Ghana’s Black Satellites 1-0 and picked the last ticket to the FIFA U20 World Cup in Poland.
He said: “I watched the Flying Eagles against the host team. That they were able to hold their own in such ambiance is a confirmation that they know what is at stake.
“They have the mettle to face the strongest opposition. The Malians are strong, but so are all the four teams in the semifinals.
“The NFF will continue to give all necessary support for the Flying Eagles to go all the way by winning the trophy.”