BY ANDREW EKEJIUBA
Nigeria’s Head Coach, Nduka Ugbade, has admitted that his boys have much work on their hands at the Africa U17 Cup of Nations that began in Algeria at the weekend, as every team would be super determined and work extra hard to try and beat the five-time world champions.
Speaking at a pre – match press conference, the former FIFA Cadet World Cup-winning captain minced no words in saying that Nigeria is under pressure, but added that the team will do everything within her strength and capacity to excel.
“We are under pressure. We know that every team wants to beat Nigeria. I am not so much interested in the trophy as in the development of the players, and the beauty of the game,” Ugbade stated.
He added: “These are young players. You can never say after all your preparations what comes next because you are playing technically; you are also playing tactically and also have to consider the psychological discipline of the players. We want the players to be disciplined to go for 90 minutes to emerge victorious.
“To achieve this, we want to do everything humanly possible within the context of our strength and capacity to see that every team that comes against us is subdued.”
Meanwhile, team captain Precious Williams, has said that Nigeria should not be handed the tag of ‘favourites’, adding that the team respects all opponents in Group B, where they play Zambia, Morocco and South Africa in that order.
“We respect all the teams in the group. We are here to develop our football. We cannot say that we are the favourites in the group.
“Our focus is to play according to the instructions of our coaches. We will defend and attack as a team and help one another to achieve a good result.”
Nigeria won the Africa U17 Cup of Nations in 2001 and 2007, the same number of times as Cameroon, Ghana, Mali and The Gambia. Cameroon and Mali, alongside Burkina Faso (one-time winners) and South Sudan will battle it out in Group C. Hosts Algeria, Senegal, Congo and Somalia will duel in Group A.
Other previous winners of the competition are Egypt and Cote d’Ivoire, who are not in Algeria.
Nigeria has also finished as runners-up on two other occasions, won the bronze medals once and finished in fourth place twice, one of which was in 2015, when they went ahead to win the FIFA World Cup in Chile.
The top four teams of the U17 AFCON will qualify for the 2023 FIFA U17 World Cup as Africa’s representatives.