AYC: F/Eagles In Must-Win Tie Against Gabon

John Obuh

John Obuh: Flying Eagles' coach

Nigeria’s Flying Eagles are now in a must-win position to keep alive their hope of reaching the last four at the ongoing African Youth Championship (AYC) in Algeria

The African champions face Gabon at the Stade Ahmed Zabana in Oran on Wednesday.

After the disappointing 0-1 loss in their first game to Mali, Flying Eagles’ head coach, John Obuh has said he will not take “rash decisions.”

“There is no need to take any rash decision. I have seen what the problem is and I will not start dropping players for the sake of it. I am an experienced coach and I know that in this case, patience is the key,” Obuh said.

Members of  Nigeria Football and Other Sports Supporters Club have urged Obuh and the technical crew to be focused and instill courage in the team, ahead of the encounter against Gabon.

“My advice to John Obuh is that he should not be distracted as losing to Mali cannot stop the team’s dream of lifting the trophy again. They should put their house in order; learn from the mistakes of their loss to Mali and go ahead to prove to the continent that they are indeed giants of Africa,’’ said Samuel Ikpea, Secretary of the club in Lagos.

Africa champions, Flying Eagles of Nigeria must  be at their best when they confront Gabon tonight in the second Group B match of the ongoing Africa Youth Championship holding in Algeria.

John Obuh’s men were champions in South Africa in 2011 and have now been drawn in a group that comprises Mali, DR Congo and Gabon. The six-time winners of the African Youth Championship AYC gave good accounts of themselves against Mali, but Flying Eagles failed used their countless chances and allowed Mali to run away with a lone goal victory on Sunday in Oran

Gabon and DR Congo played a 0-0 draw in the second game to keep Group B table very much wide open.

Nigeria, who lost 0-1 to Mali in their opening game must go for an outright victory against Gabon if they want to remain in the competition. A victory for Nigeria against Gabon will no doubt motivate the Flying Eagles to beat DR Congo on Saturday and probably pick one of the two tickets in the group, while a draw or defeat may put Nigeria in a tight corner.

The top four teams in the championship will represent Africa at the 2013 FIFA World Youth Championship coming up in Turkey.

On paper, soccer pundits have tipped Nigeria to overcome Gabon looking at the pedigree of both teams in African youth football. The belief of some football pundits is that Nigeria have array of stars who play their professional football in Nigeria and Europe.

Five players that won the championship two years ago are in the present team to defend the title.

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The players are Mohammed Goyi Aliyu, Chidi Osuchukwu, Kayode Olarenwaju, Edafe Egbedi and Abduljeleel Ajagun, who is now captain of the team.

Obuh has also included the talented trio of Christian Pyagbara (Sharks), Alhaji Gero (Enugu Rangers) and Ikechukwu Okorie (Enyimba) to the squad.

Another factor that may give Flying Eagles an edge was the defeat in their first match against their West African country opponents, Mali. Also, the euphoria of Super Eagles at the just concluded Africa Cup of Nations Cup may even propel the Flying Eagles to come out confidently and beat Gabon who are not reckoned with as far as youth football is concerned in Africa.

On the other hand, one should not take it away from Gabon who played 0-0 with DR Congo in the opening match.

The central Africa country may not be rated as tournament favourites but the Flying Eagles should not underrate them when both teams clash. Gabon over the years have been struggling to be ranked among the emerging Africa football power. Having qualified for the football male event at the last Olympic Games and performed well in 2012 Africa Nations Cup, it will be dangerous for Nigerian players to take their opponents for granted.

Commenting on the chances of Flying Eagles, former Super Eagles Goal keeper, Joe Erico said the Nigeria U-20 team will bounce back in their remaining matches. He noted that the performance of Flying Eagles in their opening match was a clear indication that the team will go places in the tournament.

“We should not write Flying Eagles off because they have lost their opening match against Mali. This is their first match and it is not over for them. They still have the better chance to win their remaining matches,” he said.

The Flying Eagles have said they will now get their title defence back on track with victories over Gabon on Wednesday night and then at the weekend against DR Congo.

“We will do a lot better in our next game against Gabon on Wednesday,” vowed skipper Abduljaleel Ajagun, who was in the team who fell 1-0 to Cameroon in a group game at the last tournament in South Africa.

“The early goal Mali scored set us back and we were just too much in a hurry to equalise. We now know what we have to do on Wednesday.”

Lobi Stars midfielder Moses Orkuma said they will ensure they do not throw away begging chances again as they did against the Junior Eagles of Mali.

“We have realised our mistakes and we are now condemned to win our next two matches, which should qualify us to the World Cup,” said Orkuma.

—Sunday Akintoye