The Flying Eagles head coach has expressed his satisfaction at the performance of his boys despite suffering a one-nil defeat at the hands of European champions, Germany.
A Levin Oztunali’s first half goal ensured Nigeria would book the next available flight home and put Germany through to the last eight of the FIFA U-20 World Cup New Zealand 2015.
The Africans could not be faulted for effort but their inability to create meaningful chances proved to be their undoing. This however was enough to please the Nigerian coach.
“Our players lost concentration at the crucial moment and this gave the Germans a chance to score. Our goalkeeper played a great game though and may have saved that ball if he had a clear view, but there is nothing we can do now. All my players have been in great form and I am proud of them all”, Manu Garba told FIFA.com at the end of the encounter.
The coach led Nigeria to win the FIFA U-17 World Cup in 2013 and the 2015 African U-20 Championship but found Germany and the FIFA U20 World Cup a bigger hurdle to scale.
“The level at U-20s is far higher than at U-17s and Germany are a very tough and highly tactical team”, Manu Garba confessed. “There have been so many unexpected results in this tournament, but one can never predict the winner. I believe that our players learnt a lot from this game and a big lesson in general from the tournament.”
Ultimately, Frank Wormuth’s side were deserved winners against the Group E runners-up and the German coach was delighted with his players output while reserving kind words for the Africans.
“I like Nigeria and they are very good technically, which makes them extremely difficult to play against. We were able to keep the ball under pressure and that was our only chance to break through their defence. In the end, I give congratulations to my team for finding the answer to the problems Nigeria posed us. They deserved the win and I am very impressed with them. I am especially proud of my team’s defence today.”
The win set up a tantalising encounter with Mali who earlier conquered 2009 champions, Ghana. Germany would be favourites in that encounter but Wormuth chose to be cautious.
“Of course, our aim is to get to the final in Auckland but to get there we must go step to step and our next step is Mali. The German mentality is to always think this way. I expect Mali to play in quite a similar way to what we saw today from Nigeria.”