African Games: Flying Eagles Face Hosts In Race For Gold Medal
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The Confederations of African Football (CAF) has made the draws for the 2019 All African Games Football event to be held in Morocco later in August.
However, unlike previous editions where players from the age of 23 and below were used to execute the competition, this time around CAF has changed its rules stating that countries should make use of their U20 teams for the All African Games.
Furthermore, with the inability to sort out qualifiers, teams who played at the CAF U20 Nation’s cup last year in Niger were qualified automatically to feature at the All African Games by CAF. The participants will be Morocco (hosts) Burkina Faso, Burundi, Ghana, Mali, Nigeria, South Africa, Senegal
Consequently, Coach of Nigeria’s Flying Eagles team Paul Aigbogun will lead his U20 squad expected to be dominated by majority of players who featured at the FIFA U20 World Cup in Poland in May to the All African Games.
Furthermore, the Flying Eagles have now been drawn in Group A of the Africa Games football event alongside hosts Morocco, South Africa and Burkina Faso. The Nigerians came third four years ago in the Republic of Congo with a team that had current Super Eagles players such as Sheu Abdullahi and Oghenekaro Etebo.
However, for the Nigerians they will hope to replicate the feat of 1973 the first and only time the country has won Gold at the tournament but first they need to get the better of the following three when the tournament starts on August 16.
The Atlas lions have never had a podium finish at the men’s event of the all African games since inception of the games although the competition was played by U23 in the past but now CAF has changed its rules stating that U20 teams should play the men’s event.
In that category as well the North Africans have not been impressive with their U20 sides either as they have not qualified for the CAF U20 Nation’s Cup and the FIFA U20 World Cup in over 12 years. Although they boast of a fourth place finish at Holland 2005 FIFA World youth championships, the last time they featured.
The southern Africans consider themselves as rivals to Nigeria in almost every category of football, this won’t be an exception either, infact the match is expected to pose more threat to the Nigerians than that of the host.
Laurel-wise at this level the Amajitas have finished on the podium twice, one silver medal finish and another bronze medal finish in 2011 and 1999 respectively. Nigeria faced South Africa at the CAF U20 Championship last year before both sides participated at the FIFA U20 world cup in Poland, so their is a tint of familiarity between both teams ahead of the Group B encounter.
Burkina Faso finished second in 2015, the Burkinabe may want an improvement on that result and as such may be a tough nut to crack for Paul Aigbogun men.
However, aside that Burkina Faso played in the CAF U20 Championships last year and although failed to qualify for the U20 World Cup, they may find the experience at the CAF Competition pivotal to any success they may want achieve in Morocco.