The Flying Eagles may have failed in their quest for a record-extending eighth U20 AFCON title in Egypt.
But they qualified for the 2023 FIFA U20 World Cup in Indonesia in May and their bronze medal was the first for the country since 2015, when the Flying Eagles won their seventh crown in Senegal.
Focus must now shift immediately to the World Cup particularly as Nigeria must submit a provisional squad to FIFA not later than April 10.
The Flying Eagles have reached the championship game of the World Cup twice, in 1989 and 2005.
But you have to go back to 2011 when they last reached the quarterfinal of the competition.
Critics have spoken of an overhaul of the team for them to compete favourably at a higher level.
Coach Ladan Bosso has always been open to improve his team as he proved by axing more than half of the squad that topped the qualifying tournament in Niger Republic in May.
The midfield and attack certainly need urgent and serious re-enforcements.
In Egypt, the midfield lacked creativity no thanks to the absence of the dynamic Daniel Daga through injury and the last-minute exclusion of Yahaya Ibrahim.
Daga and Yahaya, who in the build-up to the tournament was very influential as a deep-playing striker, would not only have shone at this AFCON, but they would have got the Flying Eagles playing better football.
A lot was expected of the strikers led by KAA Gent youngster Ahmed Abdullahi, but in the end they produced very little especially when it mattered most.
Abdullahi was unlucky right from the opening game versus Senegal when he bagged a red card and this continued in the semifinal where he missed a late penalty that would have brought the Flying Eagles back from the dead against Gambia.
Both Francis Ayuba and Olamilekan Adams, who was later converted to top striker, did not justify their places on the squad.
Winger Ibrahim Mohammed ‘Beji’ was again the star of this team as he proved at the qualifiers last year, Jude Sunday only showed his class in the losers’ final against Tunisia, but Haliru Sarki disappointed despite the huge confidence he enjoyed from the coach.
NOTHING COULD HAVE STOPPED HIM! 🔥— #TotalEnergiesAFCONU20 (@CAF_Online) March 10, 2023
🇳🇬 Jude Sunday’s spectacular goal deservedly claims our #GoalOfTheDay 👏 #TotalEnergiesAFCONU20 | @1xBet_Eng | @NGSuperEagles pic.twitter.com/svmjV7Pcsq
There is therefore an urgent need for Bosso to shop around the world for both strikers and wingers, who are eligible for this age bracket.
Besides a re-organisation of the team, there is also a need to motivate and prepare the Flying Eagles for the bigger task ahead.
Bosso, for one, has not received a salary for the past 15 months and he is still expected to deliver under such a terrible situation.
The NFF have promised $5,000-a-player as bonus for qualifying for the World Cup and hopefully they will redeem this without any delays.
Bonuses for the World Cup should also be worked out between the NFF and the Flying Eagles.
It is also paramount that with about two months to the big kick-off in Indonesia a build-up programme be mapped out that will include an extended training stint in Asia with similar weather conditions to Indonesia.
A week in Morocco before the AFCON was a welcome development, but may not have been adequate as key players literally froze in Egypt.
The individual displays of Ibrahim Mohammed ‘Beji’, Jude Sunday and Solomon Agbalaka at the AFCON have given hope the Flying Eagles will soar higher at the World Cup.
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