End of The Road For The Flying Eagles at Egypt 2009

In 2009, the Flying Eagle once again qualified for the FIFA U-20 World Cup, which was hosted by Egypt. This was the third time the U-20 World Cup would be hosted in Africa. The previous editions had been hosted by Tunisia and Nigeria respectively.

The qualification of the team was mired in controversy, after coach Ladan Bosso who secured their qualification in the African Youth championship held in Rwanda was dropped by the sports ministry for poor performance. He was immediately replaced by Olympic silver winning coach Samson Siasia, who had less than Six months to put together a new team. The effect of the change in coaching crew and squad was evident in the performance of the team in Egypt.

The Flying Eagles lost three games and won just one in the U-20 fiesta. Nigeria lost 1-0 in their opening match with Venezuela, before falling awkwardly against Spain 2-0.They however defeated lowly rated Tahiti 5-0 to qualify for the round of 16 as one of the best three losers. The match against Tahiti was historical, because it saw the sending off of two brothers- Lorenzo Tehau and Alvin Tehau, leaving the Tahitians the uphill task of playing the better part of the 2nd half with nine players. The goal rain started as early as the 15th minutes of play, when defender Obiora Nwankwo scored the opening goal. Ibok Edet, Kehinde Fatai, Nurudeen Orelesi and Daniel Adejo all added their name to the scorers’ sheet in a comprehensive victory that saw the Nigerian side qualifying on goal margin.

The fairy tale dream was however cut short by Germany in the second round after the Flying Eagles suffered a heart breaking 3-2 defeat in the hands of the Germans. The game was almost heading for a draw until a costly mistake by midfielder Haruna Lukman gave Bjorn Kopplin of Germany an opportunity to score the winning goal in the 93rd minutes.

It was a sad end to a team that had so much to offer especially with coach Samson Siasia at the helm of affairs in the technical bench. The ever critical Nigerian press was left fuming at the early exit of the U-20 National team. Coach Samson Siasia had to openly apologize to the entire country for the dismal performance of the team in a tournament that saw another African country-Ghana, clinching the much coveted trophy for the very first time.

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