The Nigerians were the big underdogs against the rampant hosts, but they showed incredible resilience and fighting spirit to upturn the odds and earn a historic win
Nigeria’s Flying Eagles have taken their place in the quarterfinals of the FIFA U20 World Cup after picking up a historic 2-0 victory over hosts Argentina at the Estadio San Juan on Wednesday night.
Second-half goals from Ibrahim Muhammad and Haliru Sarki powered the West Africans to their first-ever win over the Argentines at this level, breaking the hearts of many lovers of the South Americans.
Backed by a vociferous home support, Javier Mascherano’s boys were all over the Flying Eagles in the opening half, dominating play and dictating the tempo.
But the young Nigerians were contented with frustrating the over-eager hosts while keeping their attacking intent clear. The first half, however, ended goalless.
Shortly after the restart, head coach Ladan Bosso made two inspired substitutions, sending on Emmanuel Umeh and Haliru Sarki.
Nigeria looked more potent in attack almost immediately, and it was the crossbar that came to Argentina’s rescue from a wonderful shot off Nnadi’s boots.
And on the hour mark, the Flying Eagles stunned the San Juan Stadium into silence as Ibrahim Muhammad drew first blood with the opener.
Umeh was involved as his intelligent lobbed pass allowed Muhammad to run into the box and slot past the goalkeeper.
Argentina wanted an instant response, but Nigeria’s defence stood firm, marshalled well by Benjamin Fredrick, Abel Ogwuche, and Daniel Daga.
Umeh, who assisted the first, nearly added a second for Nigeria, but his shot went wide following a swift counterattack.
Argentina continued to threaten, with Carbone missing a couple of chances, but Nigeria’s defence remained resolute and dogged.
It seemed Argentina’s equaliser was moments away when they hit the post and had another chance cleared off the line.
But it was the Flying Eagles who added a second goal on the stroke of regulation time.
AC Milan youngster Victor Eletu won a fierce duel with an Argentine defender and sent a delightful cross for Sarki to nod home to double Nigeria’s lead and send the team to the quarterfinals.