U 20: Nigeria battles Uganda for semifinals, World Cup tickets

This is, perhaps, Flying Eagles’ biggest match yet at the ongoing African U-20 Nations Cup holding in Egypt. The clash with Uganda at the 22,000-capacity Suez Canal Authority Stadium in Ismailia not only offers the winner a semifinal ticket, it also grants the victor opportunity to play at the FIFA U-20 World Cup billed to hold in Indonesia from May 20 to June 11.

Nigeria will go into the match as the record holder in terms of titles won in the history of the championship, but Uganda comes in as the country with the better record at the last edition of the competition.

Uganda won Group B after drawing with South Sudan in their last group game, while Nigeria finished second in Group A with victories over Egypt and Mozambique and a loss to Senegal to earn the clash.

Looking forward to an interesting game against the Flying Eagles, Uganda’s Coach, Jackson Mayanja said his side has been preparing hard for the confrontation with the Flying Eagles. He believes that the Hippos’ brilliant run at the last edition would spur the current group to want to surpass that feat. He is, however, cautious, knowing that no two competitions are the same.

“My objective is to take this team to the World Cup and if I can achieve that then we can see what happens next but my objective in this tournament is to qualify Uganda to the World Cup.”

Mayanja is expected to rely on the trio of Travis Mutyaba, Isma Mugulusi and Rogers Mugisha to wreak havoc on the Flying Eagles today. Mugisha, who was named to the CAF Team of the Group Stage following his excellent showing in Uganda’s first three games, is a tricky customer with deceptive skills and knack for delivering the killer pass. If allowed to hold sway in the midfield, Mugisha is capable of delivering the ammunition that could prove disastrous to the Flying Eagles.

After the group stage of the competition, the Technical Study Group of the tournament named the Flying Eagles, who have shown professionalism, dedication, passion and discipline in the group stage, as winner of the fairplay award.

Even though they lost their opening match to Senegal Group A, the young Flying Eagles were seen congratulating their opponents and showing high sense of sportsmanship. Ladan Bosso’s boys started their campaign with a narrow 1-0 defeat to Senegal at the Cairo International Stadium. They rallied back to win the second match against hosts Egypt courtesy of Solomon Agbalaka’s towering header.

But Coach Ladan Bosso is not dwelling on such accolades, at least for now. His dream is to return to the FIFA U-20 World Cup, which he last attended with the 2007 class in Canada. Bosso will be without captain Daniel Bamaiyi, who was booked for the second time in Flying Eagles’ 2-0 victory over Mozambique.

The centre-back is an important figure in the team and will definitely be missed against Uganda and Bosso may consider drafting in Solomon Agbalaka as his replacement. Despite that setback, Bosso is confident the Flying Eagles will overcome Uganda.

Looking forward to a successful game, Bosso told thenff.com: “We are aware that Nigerians are looking up to us to deliver. While our mission remains bagging the World Cup ticket, we are also eyeing the trophy, which is still a number of matches away.

“For the moment, we have Uganda in our view and we are working hard to see that we control proceedings on Thursday.”

The Flying Eagles intensified their training ahead of the clash, yesterday, with Bosso and his assistants supervising the session at the Tolip El Forsan Resort training ground, with emphasis on tactical and endurance drilling.

MEANWHILE, the Confederation of African Football (CAF) has appointed Egyptian referee, Ahmed Nagy Mosa, as centre referee for the game, with his compatriots Mohamed Abouzid Halhal (assistant referee 1) and Yara Atef (assistant referee 2), as well as Libyan official Abdulrazg Ahmed (fourth official), supporting him.

Justin Mumba from Zambia will be the match commissioner, Rosalie N’dah from Benin Republic will serve as referee assessor, while Namibia’s Titus Kunamuene will be general coordinator.

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