9 Jun 2015

Okocha and Kanu tip Flying Eagles for glory at the FIFA U-20 World Cup

Two former captains of the Super Eagles, Austin ‘Jay Jay’ Okocha and Nwankwo Kanu, have said Nigeria have their best chance to win the FIFA U-20 World Cup for the first time at the ongoing tournament in New Zealand.

The Flying Eagles lost their opening game to Brazil but bounced back to reckoning when they defeated Korea DPR and Hugary in Group E as they booked their ticket to face Germany in the second round of the tournament.

Nigeria have twice come close to winning the tournament – in 1989 and 2005 – but they ended up losing to Portugal and Argentina on both occasions respectively. Ghana remain the only African team to have won the tournament.

Okocha, who lamented the absence of Nigerian players in the UEFA Champions League final, said Nigerian football has declined.
“It’s a shame that we didn’t have any Nigerian playing in the Champions League final, it reflects the level of our football and the profile of our players. Perhaps the new generation in Nigeria football will be able to play at this (Champions League) level soon,” the former PSG midfielder said.

“I’m not a coach or a scout so I cannot identify which Nigerian player in the junior teams will grow to play like (Lionel) Messi or (Cristiano) Ronaldo. I’ve not scouted anybody because I don’t have interest in that. But I think we’re not short of talent in Nigeria; I don’t have any doubt that we can produce players that can excel at the top level.

“It is possible that Nigeria will win the U-20 World Cup, but we must understand that when it gets to the knockout stage anything can happen. We’ve come close to winning the trophy several times in the past, so this might just be our best chance to win it for the first time.”
Kanu on the other hand warned the team to be cautious as they progress in the tournament.
“Everyone tried to rule them out because they lost to Brazil, but in football you win some and you lose some. We have good players but things did not work out for them against Brazil. They made too many mistakes. They are going to surprise everybody; we have to support and pray for them because they are the future Super Eagles,” Kanu said.

“These players have done it before at the U-17 level, they can do it at the U-20 World Cup. I will say yes, they can go all the way to the final and win.

“But let them not be carried away with their victories (at the group stage). Everybody is praising them on their achievements, but the team should keep on going. The coach knows they have to push on until the final and eventually be the world champions.”
Credit: Kazeem Busari/Punch

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