The Flying Eagles of Nigeria will begin the defence of their African Youth Championships title in Oran, Algeria today against the Eaglets of Mali. Coming so soon after the 2013 Afcon where Nigeria humiliated Mali 4-1 on their way to the trophy, the young Malians have vowed to make things difficult for their Nigerian counterparts in this opening encounter.
But Coach John Obuh is aware of this and has declared that his boys are not going to underrate any team. He has decided to field his best for this encounter as the outcome will go a long way to determining which direction his title defence will take.
Coach Obuh has taken to Algeria a squad that has a mixture of experience and youth which includes the captain Abduljeleel Ajagun, who was part of the squad that lifted the trophy in South Africa in 2011. He has also included Mohammed Goyi Aliyu, Aigbe Oliha, Edafe Egbedi and Olanrewaju Kayode from the Nigerian U-17 team
As part of their preparations, the Flying Eagles played a couple of friendly matches with some local NPL teams where they obtained some mixed results. The team traveled to Egypt where they beat fellow U-20 finalists Egypt 3-1 last month. The two sides drew 0-0 in the other match.
The Flying Eagles also lost 2-0 to Tunisia in another friendly match as Obuh’s boys warmed up for the Algerian finals where apart from Mali, they will also battle Gabon and DR Congo in Group B.
The Malians on their part have also done well in terms of preparations as they took a tour of Morocco. They lost 2-1 to a Moroccan side made up of local players. The Eaglets also played warm-up games against Egypt U-20 side and local Moroccan club sides.
Coach Mousa Keita has included five players based in Europe, with four of them playing in France, the other being midfielder Boubakary Diarra who is with Torino in Italy. FC Nantes striker Adama Niane and fellow France based striker Tiekoro Keita will add the fire-power upfront . Boubacar Diarra from TP Mazembe will be expected to shore up the defence.