On Saturday night, 25 players will fly out of Nigeria to Argentina ahead of this year’s U20 World Cup.
SCORENigeria has followed the Flying Eagles closely in training camp in Abuja and can now project the lucky players who will be on that Turkish Airlines flight Saturday all the way to Buenos Aires.
Thirteen players survived from the U20 AFCON in Egypt, where the Flying Eagles placed third.
Coach Ladan Bosso has kept faith with his three goalkeepers – Chijioke Aniagboso, Nathaniel Nwosu and Saheed Jimoh – right from the sub-regional WAFU B qualifiers last May in Niger Republic. The trio was also at the U20 AFCON in Egypt and will be in Argentina along a fourth member of the goalkeeping union, youngster Utoblo John Audu. Mavlon FC young shot stopper Audu will most likely drop to alternate role by the time a final 21-man squad is submitted to FIFA latest May 10.
Aniagboso has reclaimed the No. 1 jersey with the giant Nwosu, who shone in the WAFU tournament, now his cover.
The defence has remained the strongest department of the Flying Eagles with skipper Daniel Bemeyi effective either in the heart of the back four or as a right back in a 4-3-3 formation, while central defender Benjamin Frederick is unruffled and assured even under cooker-pressure.
The only addition in defence from the AFCON is left back Israel Domingo.
The Flying Eagles midfield struggled to produce at the AFCON in the absence of the injured Daniel Daga, who has now regained full fitness from a serious knee injury.
Daga’s return, the new-found form of creative midfielder Samson Lawal and the inclusion of AC Milan U19 ace Victor Eletu and Bulgaria-based Tochukwu Nadi have fortified this department. Will Inter Milan U19 star Ebenezer Akinsanmiro be badly missed?
The re-organisation in the engine room has therefore cost Onuche Ogbelu (Nasarawa United) and Mohammed Aminu (Gombe United) their places on the squad after they came through from the qualifying tournament in Niamey
Ibrahim Mohammed ‘Beji’ was the team’s best forward with two goals in Egypt to follow up on his three goals from the WAFU qualifiers last year.
He will again be the man this team will rely on for goals either on the wings or even as a centre-forward.
He is the most potent striker for this team in Argentina and he has proved to be the man who rises to the big occasion.
Botev Plodiv centre-forward Emmanuel Umeh, 19, could be the Flying Eagles preferred top striker after Salem Fago from Mavlon FC has struggled to score goals.
The exciting Jude Sunday will battle Haliru Sarki for who will man the other position on the flanks after Arsenal U21 ace Joel Ideho did not get a second chance in this team.
The Full Squad:
Goalkeepers: Chijioke Aniagboso, Nathaniel Nwosu, Saheed Jimoh, Utoblo John Audu
Defenders: Daniel Bemeyi, Benjamin Fredrick, Solomon Agbalaka, Augustine Njoku, Abel Ogwuche, Israel Domingo
Midfielders: Samson Lawal, Daniel Daga, Tochukwu Nadi, Victor Eletu, Joshua John, Ibrahim Abdullahi, Kehinde Ibrahim
Forwards: Ibrahim Mohammed ‘Beji’, Jude Sunday, Lawal Salem Fago, Emmanuel Umeh, Haliru Sarki, Ba’akaka Aji, Vincent Augustine, Kingsley Awodi