Nigeria’s Flying Eagles will be seeking a first ever victory over Brazil at the FIFA U-20 World Cup when they file out to do battle at the Stadium Taranaki in New Plymouth, New Zealand this morning.
This morning’s encounter will be the fifth clash between the two teams in this tournament with the Samba Stars from Rio enjoying a superior head-to-head record – three wins and a draw.
Brazil have recorded big wins over their African foes – 3-0 (1983), 2-0 (1985) and 4-0 (1987).
Interestingly, Nigeria are yet to score against Brazil in all previous four meetings.
However, ever since then the Flying Eagles have pegged back their South American adversaries – they held them to a goalless draw at the 2005 tournament and also held them to a 1-1 draw at the 2013 Toulon Tournament in France.
The match will kick off by 1pm local time, which will be 2am Nigerian time, at Stadium Taranaki.
Their first meeting was at Mexico 1983 when Nigeria debuted at the tournament. The Flying Eagles captained by late Adamu Jeje and boasting the likes of Femi Olukanmi, Tarila Okorowanta, and Paul Okoku lost 3-0 to Brazil team who had Bebeto and Dunga.
The second encounter was in the Soviet Union (USSR) in 1985, when Nigeria lost 2-0 to the Samba Boys in the semifinals.
Brazil completed a hat-trick of wins over Nigeria at Chile 1987 with a ruthless 4-0 thrashing of a team who paraded the likes of Etim Esin, Nduka Ugbade and goalkeeper Willy Okpara.
The last meeting was at Holland 2005 when coach Samson Siasia-tutored side recorded the first point against Brazil with a goalless draw.
The Flying Eagles lined up Mikel Obi, Promise Isaac, Chinedu Obasi, Sani Kaita, among others.
The present class of the U20s are a team to beat in New Zealand and could well record a first win over the South Americans on Monday.
Former U20 stars Abduljeleel Ajagun and Kehinde Fatai, both of Panathinaikos (Greece) and Astra Giurgiu (Romania) told the Flying Eagles are capable of going all the way to win Nigeria a first-ever U20 World Cup trophy.
“This present U20 team is solid, I have been reading a lot about them from the U17s till now, they have formed a formidable unit. I believe they will beat Brazil and go all the way to the final and win the trophy, but they must take it one game at a time and concentrate,” predicted Fatai.
Ajagun, who captained the Flying Eagles to reach the Round of 16 in Turkey two years ago, said: “Flying Eagles are favourites to win this competition.
“They are a good side and can get victory right from their first game till the final. They must not lose focus and keep believing in themselves.”
The African champions have drafted as many as eight players who were not at the African Youth Championship in Senegal in March with the likes of Kelechi Iheanacho, Isaac Success and Wilfred Ndidi expected to start on Monday.
Brazil, on the other hand, struggled in the South American qualifying tournament to finish a disappointing fourth.
They have replaced their coach less than three weeks to the big kick-off, but must be boosted by 1-0 wins over both Portugal and Australia in warm-up games leading up to the World Cup.
Star player is playmaker Andreas Pereira, who has already made his debut in the EPL with Manchester United in March.
However, they will be missing the inventiveness in attack of Kenedy, who has been replaced at the last minute by Malcolm after he suffered an appendicitis issue which required surgery in Australia.

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