By Tunde Oyedele,Abuja –
Nigeria’s U-20 male football team, better known as the Flying Eagles are the toast of football fans at the ongoing Glo Super 4 competition holding at Abuja National Stadium.
Eyeonthesports.com reports that the Flying Eagles, who are preparing for this year’s African Youth Championship, AYC, slated for Senegal, are not just dominating the Super 4, the team are giving the spectators value for their time in the pre-season tournament.
The Manu Garba-tutored side opened their Super 4 campaign with a convincing 2-0 victory over current Nigeria Federation Cup champions, Enyimba International Football Club on Saturday.
After demolishing the People’s Elephant, Coach Garba told eyeonthesports.com that his players were just warming up to be counted amongst the stars on parade in Abuja, but he was frank about the team’s ambition to win laurels this year.
“The Flying Eagles will always get better, but let’s see how we end the Super 4 on Sunday. As a team, our target is to win trophies this year”, Garba told eyeonthesports.com in Abuja.
Truly, the Flying Eagles, that boast of individually skilful players such as Taiwo Awoniyi, Ifeanyi Matthew, Suleiman Abdullahi, Wasiu Jimoh, Mustapha Abdullahi, Akinjide Idowu and skipper Musa Muhammed to mention just a few, improved on their fantastic display by defeating reigning Nigeria Premier League champions, Kano Pillars 2-1 in their second match on Monday.
The junior national team were a delight to watch in that particular encounter against the northern club. With their attractive play, the Flying Eagles moved the ball beautifully and ran rings around Pillars to the delight of the few spectators who turned out for the match.
After an interchange of sublime passes in the midfield, Suleiman Abdulahi scored Flying Eagles’ first goal in the 22nd minute. Abdulahi received a finished pass from Taiwo Awoniyi and brilliantly put the ball beyond Pillars’ goalkeeper, Theophilus Afelokhai.
Pillars, who did not score a single goal in the match however got a moment of relief in the 34th minute, when Flying Eagles skipper Mohammed headed the ball into his own net to gift their opponents a painful equaliser.
Shortly after the defensive blunder, Mohammed grabbed a pass and sprinted straight to the far right, beat Pillars’ back-line but shot wide and missed an opportunity to amend his earlier error.
Awoniyi put an icing on the cake for the Flying Eagles before the break when he stylishly dribbled his way into Pillars’ defence to score the match winner.
Pillars skipper, goalkeeper Theophillus Afelokhai did a yeoman’s job when he parried a penalty from substitute, Chidera Eze in the 65th minute. It would have been Flying Eagles’ third goal.
The entire second stanza of the match was explosive except that neither side was able to increase the tally before the match ended.
On Wednesday, 28 January, the Flying Eagles continued with their impressive display in the tournament by beating Warri Wolves 1-0 to grab maximum nine points from three matches.
Flying Eagles, who are currently on top of the Super 4, a six-team abridged league organised to prepare the top four clubs in Nigeria for the forth coming Premier League season, won the heart of football fans yet again after defeating highly the rated Delta side.
Although, the first half ended goalless as both teams tried in vain to hit target, skipper Musa Muhammed scored for the Nigeria U-20 team in the 47th minute, thus compounding Warri Wolves’ woes in the Super 4.
Before Musa’s fine header beat goalkeeper Okiemute Odah of Warri Wolves, the Flying Eagles endured some tactical challenges from their opponents who were the better side from blast of the whistle.
Wolves would have been ahead when striker Joseph Osadiaye’s curled shot was tipped over the bar by goalkeeper Joshua Enaholo of the Flying Eagles.
The pressure continued throughout the duration of the entertaining encounter as the Nigeria Premier League club attempted to cancel the lone goal deficit, but the junior national team stood tall to defend their rear till the whistle sounded.
Just as the Flying Eagles’ camp erupted in jubilation with the players hugging themselves for a job well done in the Super 4, their happy Coach Garba, says the team would continue with their brilliant display in the remaining two games against Dolphins FC and the U-23 Eagles on Friday, 30 January and Sunday 1 February respectively.
Despite their improved performance, Garba told eyeonthesports.com that the Flying Eagles is work in progress.
“Our best is yet to come because this tournament is being used to test our strength ahead of the U-20 African Youth Championship. “Having said that, I want to say that I’m happy about our performance so far. The Flying Eagles are just coming up, they will get better with every game”, Garba concluded.
Eyeonthesports.com recalls that the current crop of players in the Flying Eagles have been winning championships together from the U-13 and U-15 levels.
The team graduated to the Golden Eaglets squad, that won the FIFA U-17 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates, UAE in 2013.
By the time players such as Kelechi Iheanacho of Man City, of England, goalkeeper Dele Alampasu and a few others, who were part of the U-17 World Cup victory two years ago join them, the world might just welcome yet another ‘Dream Team’ from Nigeria.