The Nigerian U-20 national team boosted their chances of reaching the knockout rounds of the 2023 CAF U-20 Africa Cup of Nations with a hard-fought 1-0 win over hosts Egypt.
Solomon Agbalaka powered home a bullet header midway through the second half to help the Flying Eagles register their first points of the tournament.
Here are the major talking points around the encounter, as observed by Soccernet.ng.
1. The Flying Eagles’ attack remains the team’s weakest point
It is quite surprising how the goals have dried up for the Flying Eagles in Egypt, especially considering how prolific the team’s strikers were in the build-up to the U20 Afcon.
The industry of the likes of Sarki, Adams, and Mohamed is not in doubt, but the quality of their delivery in the final third remains suspect.
Against Egypt, the Flying Eagles’ attack barely made much of an impact, and it is telling that the winning goal came from a defender
2. Hard to pick the man of the match between Agbalaka and Aniogboso
Nigeria’s left-back Solomon Agbalaka came up with the decisive winner when it was most needed. And coupled with his overall impressive performance, he would ordinarily be the prime choice for the man-of-the-match display.
But goalkeeper Chijioke Aniagboso delivered an excellent performance key to Nigeria’s precious clean sheet on Wednesday.
The young shot-stopper made at least two point-blank saves when it seemed certain Egypt would score.
And it will not surprise many to see him retain the number one gloves for Nigeria’s next match against Mozambique.
3. Njoku, the standout in a shaky defence
Head coach Ladan Bosso should, right this minute, be giving right-back Njoku a huge hug and a double serving of his favourite meal following his brilliant showing.
The fleet-footed Egyptian forwards threw several waves of attack down Njoku’s flank and not once did he shy away from the challenge.
One or two last-ditch tackles from the youngster were crucial to Nigeria keeping a clean sheet and helping paper over a defence that needs more tactical work on positioning and man-marking.
4. The Flying Eagles’ fine team spirit
Much has been said about the Flying Eagles’ fumbling attack and the defence that needs to be seriously worked on. Even the midfield is as far from perfection as humanly possible.
But one thing you cannot take away from Ladan Bosso’s lads is their incredible team spirit.
It does not matter who starts or who is introduced from the bench; the boys work hard, they never stop running, and they put in the shift to cover for each other.
If only they could somehow find a way to make their quality shine through and add it to their incredible work-rate, then they could be among the favourites for the title.
5. All focus on Mozambique
Beating the hosts, who also happen to be four-time winners of the competition, is no mean feat, but it is just another group match and not the title decider. No over-celebration is required.
The Flying Eagles need to beat Mozambique in their last group game, or at the very least avoid a defeat, to seal their place in the quarterfinals.
Efforts in training should be concentrated on improving the team’s weaknesses (and they are quite numerous) ahead of that fixture.
Senegal, with their 3-0 win, have shown that the Mozambicans are not unbeatable. But the minnow’s goalless draw against Egypt shows they can not be underestimated either.
The Flying Eagles’ performance against Group A’s bottom team will reveal more about Ladan Bosso’s boys and tell if they are the real deal or not.