Nigeria announced their presence at the ongoing 2023 FIFA U20 World Cup which kicked off on Saturday May 20 with a deserved 2-1 victory over Dominican Republic.
The West African team also known as the Flying Eagles equally earned the first three points of Group D in Argentina, after an own goal by Guillermo De Rena and a smart finish by Samson Lawal steered them beyond their opponent in Mendoza.
How Flying Eagles Squeezed Out A Win
Ibrahim Muhammad’s shot had been firmly held by goalkeeper Xavier Valdez and Jude Sunday and Tochukwu Nnadi had threatened in the fore within the first quarter-hour, before Japanese referee Yusuke Araki opted to consult the Video Assistant Referee and then award a penalty to Dominican Republic in the 20th minute, after a tackle by Daniel Daga.
The resultant penalty was brilliantly converted by Edison Azcona.
Sunday, Nnadi, Fago Lawal, Samson Lawal and Muhammad all doubled their efforts with onslaughts launched towards the opposition, but goalkeeper Valdez was brilliant on the day, especially in tipping over Sunday’s dipping shot from outside the box in the 37th minute.
Defender Solomon Agbalaka, who headed the goal that sank hosts Egypt at the Africa U20 Cup of Nations in January, attempted a similar effort in the 58th minute but found Valdez capable. From a dashing run in the 61st minute, substitute Emmanuel Umeh should have done more than place the ball in the keeper’s waiting hands.
Daga, Sunday and substitute Haliru Sarki all tested the keeper in a second half dominated by Nigeria, but Samson Lawal was very alert to smell blood and capitalize on a defensive lapse by the boys from Dominican Republic to score Nigeria’s winner in the 68th minute. This was a minute after Jude Sunday had the ball in the net from a flowing team move, but it was ruled offside.
The Other Group Duel
The second group match saw Italy edge Brazil 3-2.
Remaining Group Battle
On Wednesday, the Flying Eagles will battle Italy in their next group match in Mendoza. The game kicks off 7pm in Nigeria.
Same day, Brazil will take on Dominican Republic.
A draw will most likely guarantee a place in the knockout rounds for the Nigerian side, ahead of their final group phase encounter with Brazil in La Plata on Saturday.
Elsewhere, victory eluded Africa’s champions, Senegal, as they lost their opening match against Japan in the competition.
Playing in Group C, Senegal lost 0-1 to Japan to remain third in the group after Colombia beat Israel 2-1 to top the group.
The Asian side opened scoring on 15 minutes and held on till the end.