The Flying Eagles are yet to win a World Youth Championship and in fact, no other African country has been able to replicate the 2009 Ghanaian U20 side, which went against all odds to clinch the FIFA U20 World Cup title in Egypt, beating Brazil in the final.
Although the Flying Eagles have finished runners-up on two occasions, the first in Saudi Arabia’89 and the last being at Holland 2005 when the John Obi Mikel led team finished second to a Lionel Messi inspired Argentina side, Nigeria are yet to lay their hands on the trophy despite being a 5-time FIFA U17 World champions.
However, this year in Poland, Nigeria will have another opportunity at the U20 World Cup trophy after missing the 2017 edition hosted by South Korea and while the team led by Coach Paul Aigbogun were not convincing at the CAF U20 championship held in Niger in February, they have been handed a relatively easy group for the championship.
The team were placed in Group D alongside Qatar, United States of America and Ukraine in a draw that is fair enough. Furthermore, with 2017 champions England, Germany, Brazil and Spain missing out on qualification, this may just be the best opportunity for the Flying Eagles to lift the trophy.
In this write-up, we X-RAY the opponents Nigeria will be facing in the group stages
Last Appearance: New Zealand 2015
Best Performance: Australia 1981 (Runners Up)
Coach: Felix Sanchez Baz (Spanish)
The nation which recently won the 2019 AFC Asian Cup in the United Arab Emirates in February are currently on a meteoric rise in the nation’s football as they continue to prepare to host the FIFA World Cup in 2022. While the country’s main team is different from the U-20 side, they will, however, get tactical input Felix Sanchez who is the Coach of the Qatar national team and also doubles as the coach of the U20 side. such can’t be treated with kids’ gloves.
Poland 2019 will make it their 4th FIFA U20 World Cup appearance, the latest being in 2015, they ended the bottom of their group, recording 3 losses in 3 Group C games against Senegal, Portugal and Colombia. Their first appearance was in New Zealand 1981 where they finished second behind champions West Germany, their best result so far.
They also featured as host in 1995. The tournament was originally scheduled to be held in Nigeria but Due to a meningitis outbreak was moved to Doha Qatar, finishing bottom of their group with 1 point from games against Syria, Russia and Brazil.
Qatar qualified for Poland 2019 U20 World Cup through the AFC U19 championship held in Indonesia in 2018 reaching the Semi-finals after topping their group. The team strength lies in its goalscoring abilities underlined by the team’s striker Abdulrasheed Umar who finished top of the goalscorers chats with 7 goals.
The team scored 18 goals in 5 games as well as been involved in some of the tournament’s high scoring matches, a 6-5 win over Indonesia in the group stages followed with a 7-3 extra time victory over Thailand in the quarter-final. While they are good at scoring goals their results also suggest that they could be porous at the back conceding 13 goals in 5 matches with 7 coming at the group stages and 6 in two knockout stage matches.
The flying eagles may be in for an interesting matchup in the opening fixture if they can bury their chances but must be wary of the threat the Asian posses going forward and with the team coached by Felix Sanchez, a Spaniard who horned his coaching skill with the Barcelona youth team from 1996 till 2006.
Star To Watch: Abdulrasheed Umar
The AS Eupen forward finished as the highest goalscorer at the 2018 AFC U19 championship with 7 goals and will definitely be one of the first name on the list of players to be on the plane to Poland and as well as the major threat the Asians may possess against Nigeria.
Last Appearance: New Zealand 2015
Best Performance: R16 (2001, 2005, 2015)
Coach: Oleksandr Vasylyovych Petrakov (Ukrainian)
The Europeans are expected to be of little problems for the Flying Eagles as they have a small pedigree when it comes to youth football. Their first U20 world cup appearance came Argentina 2001 and since then they have added 3 more successful qualifications with this year’s edition being their 4th appearance.
However, despite not being a powerhouse when it comes to youth football, they have managed to progress to the Round of 16 in each of their previous outings. In fact at Holland 2005, they have eliminated 1-0 by Nigeria courtesy of a Taye Taiwo’s long-range strike which was incidentally the last time both sides met.
Ukraine qualified for Poland 2019 U20 World Cup through the UEFA U19 championship where the were knocked out at the semi-final stage by eventual winners Portugal and they topped a group which had France, current U20 world cup champions England and Turkey.
Star to Watch: Vitaliy Mykolenko
The Dynamo Kyiv defender may prove to be a thorn in the flesh for Nigerian players when they face off in Bielsko Biala. He has so far made 17 appearances in the Ukrainian league since breaking through into the Dynamo Kyiv first team
3. UNITED STATES OF AMERICA (USA)
Last Appearance: South Korea 2017
Best Appearance: Saudi Arabia 1989 (4th place)
Coach: Tab Ramos (US)
The young Stars and Stripes have only missed 6 editions of the 22 FIFA U20 championship, however, despite their frequent appearances, the North Americans have only appeared in the Semi-finals once in 1989 where they faced Nigeria and lost, finishing fourth behind Brazil who beat them to the third place.
Ten times they have managed to escape the group stages and are expected to make it out of the group once more. At the last edition in South Korea 2017, they made it to the quarter-finals and are tricky opponents who Paul Aigbogun and his boys must be careful of.
They successfully hosted and won the 2018 CONCACAF U20 champions beating Mexico to their 2nd title consecutive title. The team played 5 games scoring 41 goals and conceding just 2 although the stats can barely be taken seriously considering the nature of the opponents faced, which includes
the likes of Suriname, U.S Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico as well as Saint Vicente and the Grenadines.
Star to Watch: Alex Mendez
The 18-year old plays his club football for Sc Freiburg and although he is yet to make a competitive appearance, he made his mark at the 2018 CONCACAF U20 Championship after being named as the tournament’s best player. The midfielder will be pivotal to his team’s efforts towards a successful outing in Poland
While Nigeria’s group may look easy on the eye, a thorough analysis of the teams in the group suggest otherwise and imply a tricky series of fixtures that may produce mixed results. A high scoring Asian team, a Continental Champion and a European team that can not be underestimated, Paul Aigbogun definitely have his hands full
And with the unimpressive showing of the Flying Eagles at the 2019 u20 AFCON in Niger earlier in February, a lot has to be done and the best legs must be gathered if the team is to make any meaningful impact at the tournament which they missed out on in 2017.
Super League: Respect & Dialogue Needed To Restore Normality
The FIFA President emphasized his full support to the European sports model, a successful model of openness and inclusivity, promotion and relegation, disapproving the concept of Super League
President Gianni Infantino has called for respect and dialogue as he expressed FIFA’s strong disapproval of the proposed European Superleague project, and has requested that the concerned parties consider their position in line with respecting the institutions that exist to protect the interest of national, European, and global football.
“FIFA is an organization which is built on values, the true values of sport,” said the FIFA President in his address to the 45th Ordinary UEFA Congress in Montreux, Switzerland.
“It is an organization that is built on our statutes, the statutes that define the institutional framework, with the pyramid, with FIFA, the confederations, the associations, the leagues, the clubs, the players. And at FIFA, we can only strongly disapprove of the creation of a super league which is a closed shop, which is a breakaway from the current institutions, from the leagues, from the associations, from UEFA, and from FIFA, which is outside of the system. There is no doubt whatsoever of FIFA’s disapproval for this.”
The FIFA President emphasized his full support to the European sports model, a successful model of openness and inclusivity, promotion and relegation, and a model that he promoted in his 16 years at UEFA:
“FIFA is here, and I am here today as FIFA President, to bring full support to European football, to UEFA, and the 55 member associations of UEFA and of FIFA, to the leagues, clubs, players, and to fans. To all the fans, all over Europe, and actually all over the world as well.”
“We can see that there is a lot to throw away for the short-term financial gain of some,” the FIFA President added. “People need to think very carefully, they need to reflect, and they need to assume responsibility. They need to think not only of their shareholders, but they need to think about all the people, of all the fans, of all those who have contributed to making European football what it is today. It goes back not only decades, it goes back more than one hundred years. People – with love, with passion, with commitment – have created all this. And we need to protect this. It is our task.”
“FIFA is a democratic organization, an organization that is open,” the FIFA President concluded. “Everyone can bring ideas and proposals, but always with respect for the institutions, leagues, associations, UEFA, and FIFA.
With respect for the history and with the respect for the passion of so many people around the world. I understand as well that on these particular days, emotions are very high, but we need to always keep the line. Football is hope, and it is our responsibility to make hope a reality. So we hope that everything will go back to normal and that everything will be settled, but always with acting responsibly, with respect, with solidarity, and always in the interest of national, European, and global football.”
2 Potential Manager To Replace Hansi Flick
Hansi Flick awesome reign with the Bavarian giant is gradually winding down, as it’s looking likely that he may not further manage the Die Roten next season.
Bayern Munich’s quest to win the Champions League consecutively came to end on Tuesday night, via the UEFA’s away goal rules having lost the first leg at home to Paris Saint Germain in the quarter-finals despite being the better side at home.
The Bavarian giant will now focus on league duty and they’re no doubt the team in pole position to win the Bundesliga, as the 2020-21 campaign is gradually coasting home with fewer games left to be played. In that regard, there is a great need for Die Roten to start preparing for next season administration and coaching wise.
The friction relationship between Hansi Flick and the Sports Director has broken down to such as extent that the manager has decided to terminate his current contract.
Hansi Flick sent shock waves through German football on Saturday after a 3-2 win over Wolfburg which keeps the Bavarian in pole position to retain the league title. Hansi Flick issued a statement about his decision to exit when the current campaign draws to a close.
“I told the team today that I informed the club during the week, after the game in Paris, I would like to terminate my contract at the end of the season.
“It was important to me that the team learn this from me because there was already a lot of hallway rumours going around.
“We’ve done a great job together for almost two years. I’m absolutely impressed with this team, their quality and their attitude.”
He added: “I also want to thank the club that gave me the chance to manage this incredible team.
“This decision was not easy for me. I’m a fan of this club. Gerd Müller, Paul Breitner, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge all were childhood idols for me.
“I’m eternally grateful to the club for the chance they gave me to become head coach here.”
It’s quite evident that a new manager would be appointed to pave way for a new rebuild of the team especially with the looming departure of David Alaba, Jerome Boateng, and Javi Martinez.
Two potential top managers that could succeed Hansi Flick, should he accept Die Mannschaft managerial position.
- Julien Nagelsmann – (RB Leipzig)
Nagelsmann has been rumoured as a possible replacement to succeed not one but many managers in Europe’s top-flight leagues whose future with their respective clubs are not guaranteed. This time around, the 33-year-old has been rumoured to be one of the possible potential managers to succeed Hansi Flick.
It could be argued that Nagelsmann is the tailor-made manager to take over the reins at the Allianz Arena, and there is no doubt RB Leipzig manager would certainly harbour the dream of managing one of the biggest clubs in Europe.
Nagelsmann is presently focusing on the job at hand with RB Leipzig, plus the fact that he’s still under contract with his employers until the end of the 2022-23 season.
With RB Leipzig and Nagelsmann flying high in the Bundesliga in terms of team performances, with next season European football spot already secured, the club’s Executive Director Oliver Mintzlaff may consider letting him leave to join their rival.
However, it’s left to be seen how things would shape up at the end of the campaign.
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- Jurgen Klopp – (Liverpool)
The relationship the German tactician has achieved thus far with Liverpool started in 2015 when he joined the Kop from Borussia Dortmund, since then he has achieved quite an incredible success with the Reds winning their first league title after thirty years and a Champions League triumph.
Liverpool were eliminated early in both domestic cup competitions and failed to progress past the quarter-finals of the Champions League, and it’s quite impossible to say that the Kop will defend their title with their current epileptic form in the Premier League especially when it’s looking done and dusted that the cityzen would clinch the title.
Having used close to six years with Liverpool since he joined the Anfield side, this could be the perfect time for the former Borussia Dortmund manager to take up a new challenge. However, despite Liverpool’s unpalatable 2020-21 campaign, the German has often reiterated that he is in no way finished at Liverpool, despite been link to the Bayern Munich and Die Mannschaft managerial position.
Given his incredible success with BVB, it’s quite evident that he would one day go on to manage either Die Roten or Die Mannschaft. Should Bayern secure the service of Klopp, he would certainly be the right and wise choice for the Bavarian giant.
At the end of the campaign, there would be a breath of fresh air in the Bavarian giant camp, with the new CEO Oliver Kahn taking the mantle of leadership from Karl-Heinz Rummenigge. In that sense, it’s left to be seen if the incoming leader would sanction the appointment of a new manager or stick with Hansi Flick. Only time would tell.