F/Eagles to fly past Euro kings
It will be the champions of Africa up against their European counterparts on Sunday at the 35,000-capacity Estadio Olimpico Pascual Guerrero in Cali, Colombia’s third biggest city.
The Flying Eagles face a team that would most probably ask their defence the most questions since the U20 World Cup kicked off on July 29.
“I watched them play against Colombia and though they lost that game, they played with so much maturity and tact. They also have a very sharp strike force and are never shy to try their luck from distance,” said Nigeria defender Felix Udoh, who has yet to taste action in Colombia.
Coach John Obuh said the Flying Eagles are ready for their latest challenge.
“We respect them as we have respected all the other teams, but we are ready for the game and we hope in the end we get the result we wish for,” said the coach, whose Sombrero Vueltiao has caught the imagination in Colombia and beyond since he wore the Colombian hat against England.
France finished second behind hosts Colombia in Group A with six points from three matches with their only loss being to the home team.
Gilles Sunu put the Junior Les Bleus ahead only for them to struggle thereafter and go down 4-1 against a highly-inspired Colombian team cheered on by a sold-out stadium and lifted by the magic of striker Luis Fernando Muriel.
However, they picked themselves up with a 3-1 win over South Korea and a 2-0 victory over 10-man Mali.
They thus finished the first round having scored six goals and conceded five.
In the Round of 16, they stopped a hard-fighting Ecuador courtesy of a 76th minute winner by Antoine Griezmann.
Both Gilles Sunu and Alexandre Lacazette have scored two goals apiece.
By reaching the last eight of the U20 team, this class of 2011 have thus equaled the country’s best record in the tournament first achieved in 1997 and repeated four years later.
To reach Colombia 2011, France trounced the Netherland s 4-1 at last year’s European U19 Championships, before they spanked Austria 5-0 and drew 1-1 with England in the group stage.
They defeated Croatia 2-1 in the semi-finals before they wrapped up a rewarding campaign with a 2-1 victory over the highly-fancied Spaniards.
Their most famous name is Chelsea youngster Gael Kakuta, who last season played on loan at London club Fulham.
FIFA sanctioned the 20-year-old midfielder for allegedly breaching his contract with RC Lens but on appeal both the player and Chelsea were left off the hook after it was ruled that Kakuta did not have a valid contract with the French club.
But so far in Colombia, skipper Gueida Fofana has been the heart beat of this French side. He controls the midfield with his passes, superb dribble runs and vision so much so that when he plays, the team also play.
Nigeria were in some bother late in the second half of their Round of 16 clash against a very defensive England side, who threw all caution to the wind to try and draw level after Edafe Egbedi gave the Flying Eagles a 52nd minute lead.
The exit of hard working defensive midfielder Philemon Daniel was the leeway the English needed to take control of the middle of the park and go at the Nigeria back four.
The energetic Daniel is sweating to be fit after hurting his tendon ligament so as to return to mop up the mess in the middle like a good vacuum cleaner.
Officials are equally confident skipper Ramon Azeez and left back Terna Suswan will get over the knocks they picked up in the bruising England clash in time for Sunday’s cracker.