Nigeria advanced to the knockout stages of the FIFA U-20 World Cup, but the Flying Eagles have taken their fair share of criticism for their performance in the tournament to this point. Nigeria settled for a 1-1 draw against Ukraine on Thursday, which was a lackluster result given the side’s expectations.
Muhamed Tijani missed a penalty in the first half for the Flying Eagles, but he bounced back to equalize with a second penalty in the 51st minute to tie the game at 1. Nigeria finished in third place in Group D behind Ukraine and the United States, though they amassed just 4 points from their 3 group stage matches. You don’t need to read a lengthy soccer betting guide to know that the Nigerians are lucky to have secured advancement considering their mediocre results to this point.
Ukraine are a sturdy defensive outfit, and they effectively packed the middle of the pitch with 3 central defenders throughout the match. Danylo Sykan gave Ukraine the lead with a close-range header in the 30th minute before Tijani’s equalizer after the intermission. The result gave Ukraine the top spot in Group D with 7 points, though they were already assured of their spot in the knockout round before the match began.
Nigeria managed to advance thanks to a positive goal differential, but critics believe the team has not lived up to expectations to this point. Nigeria were impressive in a 4-0 win over Qatar in their first match of the tournament, but they were soundly beaten by the United States in their second group stage match.
Nigeria dominated the match in terms of scoring chances, but they were only able to come up with the 1 goal against Ukraine. Nigeria lost midfielder Jamil Muhammad for the duration of the U-20 World Cup due to injury, while defender Valentine Ozornwafor’s status is still up in the air.
There is plenty of talent in the Nigerian side, but thus far manager Paul Aigbogun has struggled to get the most out of them. The U-20 side certainly still has time to redeem itself considering they have secured advancement, but this team looks far less prepared than the senior side did during a decent showing at last summer’s World Cup in Russia.
Two other African sides appear primed to advance, as well. Senegal are sitting comfortably top of Group A on 6 points through 2 matches after victories over Tahiti and Colombia, while Mali are second in Group E on 4 points. Mali secured a draw with Panama and beat Saudi Arabia earlier on.
The other African side, South Africa, are hopeless. The South Africans are still in search of their first points after losing back-to-back matches against Korea Republic and Argentina to open the tournament.