Nigeria’s U-20 national team will, on Thursday, lock horns with their Ugandan counterparts in the quarter-finals of the CAF U-20 Africa Cup of Nations in Egypt.
There is so much at stake in this encounter, the first meeting between these two teams at this level.
The winner of the match will not only progress to the semi-finals of the competition, but they will also secure their spot at the 2023 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Indonesia later in July.
With that much to fight for, a thrilling clash is expected between the Flying Eagles and the Hippos at the Suez Canal Stadium in Ismailia on Thursday.
Uganda will head into this quarter-final match-up high on confidence after finishing top of Group B thanks to two draws against Congo and Sudan, a win over the Central African Republic, and the luck of drawn lots.
It is thrilling to note that Uganda only made their debut appearance at the U-20 AFCON in the last edition, but they shocked all, including themselves, as they surmounted all obstacles to reach the final. And even then, it took a resilient Ghana side to condemn them to a runners-up finish.
Their current U-20 squad looks even more talented than that 2021 team, and they have lost only one competitive game since 2022.
And adding Nigeria to their list of conquered opponents will add no small credence to their burgeoning reputation.
But the Flying Eagles are not your regular mediocre foes. Nigeria are the most successful team in the history of the U-20 AFCON, with seven titles.
In their 17 appearances at the continental championship, only on two occasions did the Flying Eagles fail to make it to the semi-final of the competition.
Nigeria missed the 2021 edition but were champions as recently as 2015 when Musa Muhammed’s tournament-high four goals and Taiwo Awoniyi’s three goals lifted them to a podium finish.
Ladan Bosso’s boys may not be as gifted as that victorious team led by veteran coach Manu Garba. Still, they have shown resilience and battle-readiness in bouncing back from an early defeat to Senegal to make it past the group stage with wins over hosts Egypt and Mozambique.
Ladan Bosso has given his assurance that the Hippos of Uganda can’t stop his ambitious Flying Eagles from qualifying for the FIFA U20 World Cup scheduled for Indonesia from 20th May – 11th June.
Bosso hinted in Ismailia ahead of the tricky tie against Group B leaders ‘The Hippos’: “It’s an important game for us and one that will determine the Flying Eagles qualification for the World Cup in Indonesia.
“The boys have been separated from men, so at this stage, only the best is good enough to make it to the semi-finals.
“I don’t want to be over confident, but I trust my Flying Eagles to go all out to secure the ticket against the Uganda Hippos.
“My team is growing with confidence after the defeat to Senegal. As regards the Hippos, we have taken time to watch their matches and got an idea about the team’s pattern of play”.
Hippos possible starting lineup – Abdu Magada (GK), Kagogwe, Torach, Madoi, Lutalo; Titus Ssematimba, Katongole, Saidi Mayanja; Mugisha, Isma Mugulusi, , John Paul Dembe
Flying Eagles possible starting lineup – Aniagboso (GK); Njoku, Chiemela Fredrick, Ogwuche, Agbalaka; Ogbelu, Aminu, Lawal; Haliru Sarki, Abubakar, Muhammad
Uganda Hippos vs Flying Eagles of Nigeria prediction
The clash in Ismailia will be the first faceoff between Uganda and Nigeria at the U-20 level.
The two nations are, however, familiar opponents at the senior level, where the East Africans retain the bragging rights.
In eight meetings between the two, the Cranes have recorded four victories while the Super Eagles have just two wins, with the two other encounters ending in draws.
The Hippos of Uganda finished top of their Group B which also included Congo, South Sudan and the Central African Republic. They defeated Central African Republic 2-1, and drew 2-2 and 0-0 with Congo and South Sudan respectively. It took a drawing of lots by the Confederation of African Football to separate Uganda and Congo and determine the winner of Group B, as both teams finished with the same statistics.
Meanwhile, the Flying Eagles will be without the services of team captain Daniel Bameyi due to accumulation of two yellow cards. The defender was cautioned twice in the group games against Senegal and Mozambique.
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