The Nigerian U-20 national team failed to live up to expectations in their opening-day clash against their West African brothers, Senegal.
Despite stringing together a brilliant run of 16 games without defeat in the build-up to the U20 Africa Cup of Nations, the Flying Eagles fell to a deserved 1-0 loss to Senegal in their opening Group A game of Egypt 2023.
Souleymane Faye’s opportunist strike, five minutes before the halftime break, was all the Young Lions of Teranga needed to claim the scalp of the seven-time African champions.
But is this the first time Nigeria will lose their opening match at the continental youth championship?
Since the tournament format was introduced to the U20 Afcon in 1991, Nigeria’s Flying Eagles have lost two opening games in 11 appearances.
In 2013, Nigeria stumbled in their first match at the U20 Afcon in Algeria when a solitary Adama Niane strike handed Mali a memorable win over the Flying Eagles.
But the team, then handled by coach John Obuh, bounced back to win their remaining two group games, eventually powering to a third-place finish.
After beating Gabon and DR Congo, Nigeria lost 2-0 to Egypt in the semifinals before taking back their pound of flesh with a 2-1 triumph over Mali in the third-place decider.
Bodrumspor’s Aminu Umar fired four goals for Nigeria and finished the tournament as the top goalscorer.
Earlier in 1993, however, Nigeria also suffered an opening day 1-0 defeat to Cameroon at the U20 Afcon hosted on the island of Mauritius, off the east coast of Africa.
The Flying Eagles recovered to force a 2-0 loss down the throat of Mauritius two days later. But the team ultimately failed to make it out of their group after narrowly losing their last match to Ghana.
Will the present crop of Flying Eagles recover to follow the path of the 2013 set or stumble prematurely out of the Afcon like the 1993 group?
Kindly leave your answers in the comment section.