Flying Eagles set for Qatar as FIFA U-20 World Cup kicks off

Flying Eagles during a recent training. Photo/Twitter/nff

The stage is set for the 2019 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Poland, where 24 countries will fight to determine the best youth football-playing nation on earth.

The competition, which kicks off today and ends on June 16, is attracting much attention because of the quality of youngsters that participated in their various continental championships.

This is the championship that threw up the likes of Lionel Messi and most of the current big names in world football. It is also a competition that attracts a large number of scouts who will be looking out for the next big star.

Nigeria is among the 24 countries taking part in this year’s championship after missing the last edition of the competition.

Because the country did not qualify for the last edition of the FIFA U-17 World Cup, the Flying Eagles are made up of entirely new set of players selected from various academies and clubs across the world.

As this is their first experience in a world tournament, Coach Paul Aigbogun’s ability to get the best out of them will be crucial if Nigeria must succeed in the competition.

Placed in Group D alongside U.S., Qatar and Ukraine, the Flying Eagles have been tipped to come out of the pool unscathed. This ambition will be tested in their opening game tomorrow against Qatar, which, in Aspire, has one of the best football academies in the world.

Speaking with The Guardian yesterday on the competition, former Flying Eagles coach, John Obuh tipped this year’s championship to be different from the previous ones because of the preponderance of foreign-based players in the Nigerian team. He is, however, not happy with the composition of the team.

“This is the first time Nigeria will be parading more foreign-based players in an age grade championship. I don’t have anything against our young stars living abroad getting call ups, but since the junior team coaches are expected to discover talents from the grassroots, I see no reason why it is like this.

“Let us see how the foreign-based players will perform. But it must be said that the current arrangement has denied the homegrown youths the chance to display their skills. I wish the team all the best,” he said.

The 24 teams in the U-20 World Cup are Nigeria, Poland, Ecuador, Saudi, Senegal, South Africa, Honduras, Korea, Mali, Mexico, Portugal, Panama, Norway, France, Argentina, Ukraine, Uruguay, Qatar, U.S, Colombia, Tahiti, Japan, New Zealand and Italy.

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