FIFA U-20 World Cup: Nigeria Stun Italy to Reach the Round of 16

FIFA U-20 World Cup: Nigeria Stun Italy to Reach the Round of 16
Credit: @EleyiLagos Twitter

The Nigeria national U20 side, aka the Flying Eagles, were in action on Wednesday against their Italy U20 counterpart in the ongoing FIFA U-20 World Cup in Argentina.

Both teams won their first game of the tournament, with Italy overcoming Brazil 3-2 and Nigeria coming off a 2-1 win over the Dominican Republic.

The winner of the game would reach the Round of 16, and it was the two-time U-20 World Cup runners-up, Nigeria, who reigned supreme, dispatching the Europeans 2-0 on the day to progress.

Before the match, the head coach of the Flying Eagles, Ladan Bosso, revealed how his team were preparing for the Italians. He said, “We stayed back after our match against the Dominican Republic to watch Italy's match against Brazil, and we took a lot of notes from there. The Italians have the midfield machinery to outrun any team that is flustered by their pace and organization, but we will know how to deal with that. We have the boys who can neutralize their mortal armoury and deliver some blows of our own. Wednesday’s encounter will be interesting. We will respect them but we don’t fear any team at this championship.”

The study done by the coaching crew on the Italians was put into practice by the Flying Eagles. The Nigerian midfield remained committed defensively, allowing the forwards to deliver the needed blows to secure a comfortable win.

Italy vs Nigeria: As It Happened

Fresh from their win over pre-tournament favourites Brazil, the Italians began the game with confidence and control. However, the Flying Eagles remained focused and committed defensively.

As a result, they were presented with an early chance. Daniel Daga, one of Nigeria's standout talents, had a shot in the 10th minute, but it was off-target.

Ten minutes later, it was the Italians who came close. Pafundi floated in a cross to Chelsea's Cesare Casadei, who shot the crossbar. A few moments later, space opened for Jude Sunday around the edge of the box, but his shot breezed over the left post.

Both had chances in the final 15 minutes of the first half, but neither could make it count. As a result, the score stayed 0-0 into the half-time break.

In the 46th minute, Emmanuel Umeh and Tochukwu Nnadi came on for Ibrahim and Lawal to give Nigeria more control. The African side looked settled, with Jude Sunday almost scoring in the 53rd minute after the goalie came off his lines.

It was now end-to-end stuff for both teams, but Nigeria opened the scoring. Substitute Umeh Emmanuel received a cross, showing good quality to pick out the unmarked Salim Fago, who nodded Nigeria ahead in the 61st minute.

Thereafter, Nigeria controlled proceedings, staying strong and cutting out every move the Italians made.

In injury time, the Italians came out as time was winding up, but their attack broke down, allowing Nigeria goalie, Aniagboso, to send a long ball forward to Jude Sunday. The young forward raced towards the ball, controlled it and shot low past the Italian keeper. It was 2-0 to Nigeria in 90+5 minutes, a goal which sealed the victory.

The Next Games in FIFA U-20 World Cup Group D

Nigeria will take on Brazil in the last Group D game on Saturday. A draw will be enough for the Flying Eagles to finish top. However, should Brazil beat them, the South Americans will be top of the group on goal difference. Interestingly, should Italy beat the Dominican Republic and Brazil beat Nigeria, all three teams will have six points.

You can watch the FIFA U-20 World Cup on live football tv apps in Nigeria.

This article was most recently revised and updated 9 months ago

Chandan is a passionate writer, editor, and marketer with a love for football. He has bylines in leading online publications and has worked with renowned sports brands like The Olympics, Fox Sports Asia, and the Indian Super League (ISL). As for the unimpressive part, he loves Chelsea.