Against many odds, the Flying Eagles are soaring higher and higher in Argentina.
The boys passed their sternest test yet when they overpowered host country Argentina 2-0 to reach the last-eight of the 2023 FIFA U20 World Cup.
🇳🇬 The Flying Eagles of Nigeria are making their mark at the FIFA U20 World Cup.— SuperSport Football ⚽️ (@SSFootball) June 1, 2023
They are through to the quarterfinals following a 2-0 win over hosts Argentina 👏 pic.twitter.com/HzDHWMKcPb
Over 27,000 fans jammed the stadium in San Juan to cheer the most successful team at the U20 World Cup level (six world titles) take on a team who barely made it to the knockout rounds as one of four Third Best Losers.
Before then there was the little drama of what many team members described as “a deliberate” ploy to intimidate and frustrate the Flying Eagles by ensuring they got to San Juan late.
That drama cost them to miss an official training session.
But all that was put behind for them to come up with a defensive Master Class and two goals as well as enjoy loads of luck as Argentina just could not put their acts right in front of goal.
Like coach Ladan Bosso was quick to acknowledge, his team have endured a difficult passage to the quarterfinal after they advanced beyond the tournament’s ‘Group of Death’ along with five-time champions Brazil and Italy.
The quality in this first round group has come to the fore as all three teams – Brazil, Italy and Nigeria – have since progressed to the last-eight.
The Flying Eagles were in March widely criticized for not playing good football at the U20 AFCON in Egypt even though they still managed to meet the target of qualifying for the World Cup.
The NFF have since tasked them to win the World Cup after the country missed out on such a feat in 1989 and 2005, when they were beaten in the final championship games.
In 2007 in Canada, Bosso also led the Flying Eagles to the quarterfinal with players like Brown Ideye, Efe Ambrose, Elderson Echiejile and Ikechukwu Ezenwa, who went on establish themselves in the Super Eagles.
Love him or hate him, Bosso will now hope to go past the quarterfinal in Argentina, while players like Daniel Daga, Victor Eletu, Benjamin Frederick, Tochukwu Nnadi, Ibrahim Mohammed ‘Beji’ and Jude Sunday also go on to represent Nigeria at full international level.
Eliminating the host country right in front of their passionate fans Wednesday night was a sweet revenge for the Flying Eagles 2-1 loss to the South Americans in the 2005 final in Utrecht.
A certain Lionel Messi stole the show that day with two well-taken penalty goals.
But while Argentina were crowned world champions that day, the Flying Eagles are yet to win anything of note even after their heroics Wednesday night in San Juan.