The stage is set for the finals of the 2015 Africa Youth Championships as the high-riding Flying Eagles team of Nigeria takes on host, Senegal, in what many have predicted will be a keenly contested match on Sunday.
The Flying Eagles did record a 3-1 win over Senegal two weeks ago when the 19th edition of the AYC effectively kicked off, and while the Coach Manu Garba-tutored side are eyeing a double over the hosts, the Junior Teranga Lions on their part are talking-up revenge.
Sunday’s final for the Flying Eagles is the ninth time Nigeria will play at this stage of the AYC.
Incidentally, the two times Nigeria lost in the finals of the AYC was against host countries, Ghana and Algeria.
The bad precedence nonetheless , Flying Eagles Coach, Manu, is not nursing any fears that Senegal will deny his wards the chance of conquering the continent; a feat they were denied in the U17 cadre just two years down the line.
“We will not go back to Nigeria without the Cup,” Manu declared ahead of the crunch clash coming up at the 45,000-capacity Leopold Sedar Senghor Stadium in Dakar. “Senegal have done very well to recover from that opening day loss and get to the final, but we are ready for them, they cannot stop us.
“Even before we arrived Senegal we made it very clear that we want to go to the World Cup as African champions and now we are on course to achieving this target. Sunday’s match is the most important game we will play in Senegal. It is important for our careers as coaches and players and we will take this opportunity with both hands.”
Route to finals
Going into Sunday’s final, the Flying Eagles have displayed top class football which has accounted for them winning three and drawing just a game. The team beat Senegal, Congo and then drew with Ivory Coast in their last group game before going on to dispatch arch-rivals Ghana in the semi-finals.
The Nigeria U20 team have scored a total of 11 goals and conceded four en-route making it to the finals.
For Senegal it was a rough road to the final; losing 1-3 in their first match then drawing 2-2 with Ivory Coast before securing a dramatic 4-3 over Congo in their final group game. Senegal then conquered Mali 2-1 in the semi-finals to book a date with Nigeria in the finals
Flying Eagles Stars
While the Flying Eagles are best seen as a well-knitted team, there are indeed some standouts like striker, Taiwo Awoniyi, who has netted three goals and is on course to emerge as the MVP of the 2015 AYC.
Skipper, Musa Muhammed, who surprisingly is topping the goals charts; Ifeanyi Matthew, Obinna Nwobodo and goalkeeper Joshua Enaholo are all standout in the Flying Eagles team pundit see as the future of Nigeria football.
Senegal talks tough
On their part, the Senegal team are by no means keeping quiet even though this is the first time they will be getting to the finals of the AYC.
Senegal striker, Moussa Kone, has promised to provide the goals that would wreck the Flying Eagles of Nigeria who many see as firm favourites.
Kone showed what he is capable of doing as he singlehandedly took Senegal to the 2015 AYC finals; scoring the two goals in the 2-1 victory over Mali in the semifinals and the next stop for the ambitious forward is the game against Nigeria.
“I’m going to score again in the final to give the cup to Senegal,” Kone emphatically stated. “I have proven that I’m a goal scorer as it is very difficult for me to go three matches without scoring a goal. But even when I did not score, I was not discouraged. I waited for my time and it came against Mali. We are now in the final and the best is yet to come.”
The Flying Eagles previous AYC title were won in 1983, 1985, 1987, 1989, 2005 and 2011. The question on the lips of many is whether Nigeria will be seventh-time lucky on Sunday.
Already the leadership of the NFF have jetted out to Dakar to lend their support to the Nigeria team.