The seeming football rivalry between Nigeria and Argentina will be rekindled at the U20 World Cup on Wednesday when both nations’ youngsters clash in a tasty round of 16 fixture.
The Flying Eagles are looking for their first ever win against the Junior Albicelestes at this level and the outcome of these five key battles in the game will go a long way determining who knicks it at the end of the day.
Both countries have produced numerous top footballing talents at this tournament in times past and this edition has also seen the birth of some promising ones. Hence, these are the key battles to watch out for on Wednesday.
1. Federico Redondo vs Victor Eletu:
Although Argentina coach Javier Mascherano still faces a dilemma on whether to stick with Redondo after his peerless display against New Zealand or recall Sporting Lisbon’s Mateo Tanlongo who was rested for that game, it is not out of place to anticipate a contest between “his father’s son” Redondo and Victor Eletu whom many tout as the next Jay-Jay Okocha.
Redondo, son of former Real Madrid star Fernando, and the new Okocha, Eletu have identical footballing ideology which is getting their team flowing with ball on the ground and being tempo-setters. Redondo is a deep-lying playmaker while AC Milan star Eletu, as a central attacking midfielder will go head to head with the Argentinos Juniors starlet in phases of the game should Mascherano stick with him.
He plays like busi , runs like busi too and moves like busi too. We should definitely go all out for Federico Redondo pic.twitter.com/c8hLKlu14W— Culers Media (@lewyball) May 27, 2023
2. Valentin Carboni vs Daniel Daga
The jury is always out on whoever dons the Argentine Number 10 jersey at any major football tournament regardless of the category, rightly so. Valentin Carboni, a left footed sensation has also hugged headlines for good reasons in this tournament, sometimes displaying some of the nous known with his idol Lionel Messi.
Against Nigeria though, he will come against one of the best specialist defensive midfielders of the tournament in Daniel “the dangling” Daga. The 16-year old is all shades of a teenage Sunday Oliseh at the USA ’94 World Cup finals. Aggressive yet calculative, good range of passes, can hit a shot and a decisive tackler. This battle will be an extraordinary one to look out for.
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3. Alejo Veliz vs Benjamin Fredrick
The Argentine Number 9 has scored one goal in each game and he is already one of the frontrunners for the Golden Shoe award. A neat goal poacher blessed with intelligent movement and an uncanny heading ability in spite of his non-imposing frame.
To attempt to stop Veliz’s run will be a Nigerian defence anchored upon Nasarawa United defender Benjamin Fredrick. Without him, Brazil ran the Africans ragged in La Plata and ultimately claimed a table-topping win. With Fredrick back after he was rested in that game, a battle against this in-form teenager will be his major preoccupation.
El cabezazo de Alejó Veliz en sonido ambiente. Es una locura como impacta la pelota🔥 pic.twitter.com/pguOtrfWJX— Lautaro Alvarez⭐⭐⭐ (@a_lautaro9) May 27, 2023
4. Sunday Jude vs Agustin Giay (San Lorenzo)
One of Nigeria’s deadliest weapons in this tournament has been Sunday Jude who has emerged from being a perpetual substitute at the African tournament to becoming the go-to guy for the team in Argentina. Jude was very unlucky not to add to his goals tally in the tournament against Brazil and was one of the few Nigerian stars that posed threats to the Brazilians.
The goalkeeper assist 🎯— Soar Super Eagles (@SSE_NGA) May 25, 2023
The tidy finish 🚀
The celebration 🕺
Jude Sunday's goal last night had everything. pic.twitter.com/KQRh5bABwe
On Wednesday, he will have to contend with Argentine captain Agustin Giay in San Juan and it is expected that the San Lorenzo defender will not make life easy for Jude. The wily, no-nonsense right back leads his side with marked commitment to every challenge.
5. Emmanuel Umeh vs Diego Gomez
Nigerian coach Ladan Bosso is pondering some alterations to his forward line ahead of this game but what seems like a constant is Emmanuel Umeh starting whatever the decisions are. The Bulgaria based attacker has many attributes to his game: pace, power and precision which has made him a handful to defenders.
It will be interesting to see how his match-up against Diego Gomez, one of the tournament’s best defenders goes. Gomez, a left footed centre back is Mascherano’s most trusted defensive army and this Velez Sarsfield star has neutralised many of his opponents in this tournament.
How to watch
Argentina vs Nigeria, scheduled for the Estadio San Juan del Bicentenario will kick-off at 6pm local time but 10pm in Nigeria with Swedish referee Glenn Nyberg at the helm of affairs.
The match will be aired on Cable TV, SuperSport Variety 4 (Channel 209).
For online viewers, this game and all games of the 2023 FIFA U20 World Cup are available on the FIFA Plus App which is available to download in all Phone Stores.