Flying Eagles head coach Paul Aigbogun has named a 21-man squad for the FIFA U20WC which gets underway in Poland this week. Aigbogun left many in shock with a selection filled with virtually unknown players whose “Melchizedek” kind of profile is worth digging into.
Aigbogun named in his squad only ten out of the 21 players that finished fourth at the Under-20 AFCON held in February in Niger, led by captain Ikouwem Udo Utin and two other Enyimba stars but at least, he found a way to include Italy based Under 17 World Cup winner Kingsley Michael in the squad.
Chief Football Writer FISAYO DAIRO profiles this set of unknown players for the public to have a fair knowledge of the team and a little bit of what to expect from each player at the competition.
Olawale Oremade: The team’s first choice goalkeeper at the African qualification tournament in Niger. A tall, confident and imposing lad who has already been promoted to the Nigerian U23s. The Oasis Academy of Lagos product joined Kwara United in March and has made three appearances for the NPFL side. Expected to be in goal in Poland.
Detan Ogundare; Ogundare is another highly rated goalkeeper who has been on the books of NNL side Kogi United since 2016. He is rated as an assured deputy to Oremade and unlike the first choice, he has been with the Under 20s since Aigbogun was appointed.
Jonathan Zaccala: One of the youngest member of the squad. The 17-year old, born in Milan, Italy was said to have impressed in camp before the Niger tournament although he was dropped from the squad. The Arconatese FC of Italy goalkeeper has now replaced Akpan Udoh on the plane to Poland. May just be that he is being groomed for the next tournament.
Valentine Ozornwafor; A tall and strong left centre back who was invited to the Super Eagles after his exploit in Niger. Also started the last game for the U23s. He is on the books of top Nigerian side Enyimba where he made three appearances this season; two as a sub and a start against Lobi Stars last month, all ending in clean sheets.
Igoh Ogbu; Ogbu is a centre back who forged a formidable partnership with Ozornwafor in Niger. A ball playing CB who scored in the team’s friendly against VFR Aalen early this month is the only surviving member of the failed Under 17 class of 2017. He plays for Rosenborg in Norway where he is yet to feature in 2019.
Ikouwem Udo Utin: Needs no introduction anymore. He is the captain of the team and dependable left back who like his club mate at Enyimba, Ozornwafor made the Team of the Tournament in Niger. He has a cap with the main Super Eagles and excelled at the 2018 CHAN in Morocco. He recently signed a deal with Israeli side Maccabi Haifa.
Muhammad Rabiu; This versatile player gatecrashed into the team and ensured that right back Mike Zaruma whom they both play for the same club was dropped. Rabiu joined Plateau United from Kwara United at the start of this season and has played a good number of games at right back and in midfield, scoring the winner against Abia Warriors on March 24. He is expected to be the Flying Eagles’ first choice right back in Poland.
Jamil Muhammad: A strong defensive midfielder who made his debut for Kano Pillars in July 2017 as a young teenager. He also did well at the U20 AFCON in Niger, playing every minute of Nigeria’s five games in the defensive midfield role. Quite surprised he is listed as a defender here.
Aliu Salawudeen: A lucky member of the squad, or perhaps there is something we do not know. He is one of the ten players that made it to Poland from the 21 that featured in Niger. This centre back who is on the books of Emmanuel Amuneke academy did not get a single minute of action in Niger but has done enough to land at the WYC.
— ACLSports (@acl_sports) May 14, 2019
Nnamdi Ofoborh: Highly rated star with Premier League side Bournemouth. Yet to make his competitive debut for the senior team but was on the bench against Fulham and Tottenham in the past month. The central midfielder scored one and assisted another in Flying Eagles’ 3-0 win over VFR Aalen early this month.
Peter Etim Eletu: A left sided central midfielder who is also among the ‘lucky’ duo that went to Niger and now going to Poland. He featured in only one game in Niger, the 3rd place match against South Africa and is expected to give the squad some depth in Poland. He plays for Prince Kazeem Academy in Lagos, owned by the very wealthy Prince Kazeem Eletu Odibo.
Ayotomiwa Dele-Bashiru: Dele-Bashiru is a central midfielder who is on the books of English champions Manchester City. He has featured quite prominently in the PL 2 and the UEFA Youth League for City. He scored once in the Flying Eagles’ 3-3 draw with Freiburg U19s. One to watch out for.
Kingsley Michael: Perhaps the most prominent of this set after captain Ikouwem. A member of the 2015 FIFA Under-17 Championship winning team under Emmanuel Amuneke where he played five of the seven games. He is a central midfielder currently with Serie B side Perugia. He made 25 appearances this season scoring once and having three assists.
Effiom Maxwell: Effiom is the third Enyimba player in the squad. Made his debut in July 2017 but has been on the fringes ever since. He is an attacking midfielder who can also play as a support striker and winger. He scored a goal at the U20 AFCON in February.
Aniekeme Okon: A very flamboyant attacking midfielder cum winger who made his Akwa United debut against Rangers in January 2018 (under Flying Eagles assistant coach Abdu Maikaba). Filled with considerate pace but sleek trickery and specialty in dead balls. His ability to play on either flanks and offensive midfield position means he’ll be very useful during the tournament. Was also at Niger 2019.
Collins Sor: Another of the squad who is on the books of Oasis FC, Lagos (owners of goalkeeper Oremade). He is a winger blessed with incredible pace. The “Waffi” Boy was not in the side that finished 4th in Niger but is being touted to take the world by storm in Poland.
Jerome Akor Adams: The 19-year old centre forward plays for Norwegian second division side Sogndal IL. He has been part of the Flying Eagles since their qualifying series but did not make the squad to Niger. The Jamba Academy product is still looking for his first official goal this calendar year.
Tijani Muhammed: The 6ft 2″ striker plays for the B side of FC Banik Ostrava in the Czech Republic. He had a prolific time in Nigeria’s third tier league (NLO) in 2018 with 36 Lion FC before joining Banik later in the year. His composure and intelligence around the penalty box is his asset.
Henry Offia: One of the better players in the Flying Eagles’ Germany camp. Offia scored in the friendly games against Freiburg and VFR Aalen, performances that sealed his place in Poland. The well built lad plays for Swedish top tier side IK Sirius (although he is yet to feature in 2019) and can play either as a winger or a centre forward.
Chinonso Emeka: Supposedly plays for Sunday League side Brook House FC of England. A centre forward. ???
Two members of the 21-team Flying Eagles who will do battle in Poland next week. Success Makanjuola and Chinonso Emeka.
— Fisayo Dairo (@FisayoDairo) May 14, 2019
Success Makanjuola: A winger with non-league side Water FC (remember Gabriel Okechukwu?). Owned by the same management team as Chinonso Emeka and despite having their inclusion questioned, the onus will be on them to show what they’ve got if they get the chance in Poland.
The Flying Eagles are drawn in Group D of the FIFA Under 20 World Championship in Poland with Qatar, the United States of America and Ukraine. They will face Qatar in their opening game in Tychy on Friday May 24.