Calabar in the Southern part of Nigeria would come alive again on Saturday for the first time in as many months when Nigeria host Burundi in the second leg of the second round at the U.J Esuene Sports Stadium.
No Nigerian youth team has yet to lose a match at the 16,000 capacity stadium, with big margin wins recorded against the likes of Botswana and Rwanda in the past. The recent was a 5-0 drubbing of Gabon in the U-17 AFCON qualifiers in September 2014.
Despite taking a narrow 1-0 lead against the Young Sparrows from the first leg in Bujumbura three weeks ago, courtesy of a 60th minute goal by midfielder Chukwudi Agor, Nigeria coach Emmanuel Amuneke and his charges are not taking this reverse fixture lightly.
Amuneke was full of hope while speaking to CAFonline.com ahead of the eagerly awaited contest.
“Though we won the first leg, the team we met in Bujumbura is tactically sound and we must be at our best when we play against them on Saturday. We are not going to lose focus and we must be able to take our chances unlike what happened in the first leg.
“It is a great feeling for us going back to Calabar and this would be a good opportunity for us to thank the government and people of Cross River State for their support to us over the years. What we need again on Saturday is their total support against Burundi and I think we will do everything possible to get a good result for them to celebrate,” said Amuneke.
The rank and file of the Flying Eagles especially captain Kelechi Nwakali and defender John Lazarus who celebrated their anniversaries on Sunday and Monday respectively, are hopeful of a victory on Saturday as the icing on their birthday cakes.
“I’m happy and grateful to God for the privilege of marking another birthday today (Sunday) and on Monday, it would be the turn of another of my teammate, Lazarus, but we are leaving the celebration until after our game against Burundi on Saturday,” explained Nwakali, the Most Valuable Player at the FIFA U-17 World Cup Chile 2015 who has already secured a pre-contract agreement with English Premier League side, Arsenal.
“We are going to play and win our match on Saturday and I’m confident we would celebrate like we did the last time with Samuel Chukwueze when we beat Burundi away.”
The winners progress to the third and final round of the qualifying tournament for the 20th edition of the U-20 African Cup of Nations with only seven teams eventually joining hosts Zambia for the tournament scheduled for 26 February to 12 March 2017.


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