Four years ago Nigeria conquered the world at U17 level with an all attacking style of play which proved to be too much for teams that came their way during the tournament.
Coached by former Barcelona forward Emmanuel Amunike the team was widely expected to qualify easily for the Africa U20 Cup of Nations and subsequently the World Youth Championship but that wasn’t the case.
Despite winning the first leg of their qualifiers away to Sudan the team lost out on the away goal rule in Lagos and the chance to see them strut their trade at a level higher than U17 failed to materialise.
The failure appears to have little impact on the progress of the players as three of them have made the step up to the Super Eagles in recent times. Kelechi Nwakali, Victor Osimhen and Samuel Chukwueze in particular.
While the duo of Osimhen and Chukwueze made their bow for the team Nwakali played for the B team in a friendly game against Atletico Madrid just before the World Cup and his well taken goal earned him an invitation after the World Cup but he didn’t get to make the matchday squad.
At U20 level goalkeeper Akpan Udoh who kept goal for the team is with the present team of coach Paul Aigbogun although he now plays second fiddle to the duo of Olawale Oremade and Daetan Ogundare.
Presently the team has six players in the Nigeria U23 team for the U23 Cup of Nations Qualifiers game against Libya in Udochukwu Anumudu, Kingsley Michael, Samuel Chukwueze, Kingsley Michael, Kelechi Nwakali, John Lazarus and Orji Okonkwo.
Others who are yet to get international recognition since that ill fated game against Sudan at U20 level like Lukman Zakari, David Enogela and Ejike Ikwu will no doubt get their chance soon owing to their progression with their respective teams in Europe.
Mohammed ‘Mowiz’ Suleiman