Flying Eagles captain Ikouwem Udoh Utin says a successful outing here in Poland at the FIFA U20 World Cup will be that “we go back to Nigeria not earlier than June 16th, the day after the tournament ends”.
Speaking exclusively to www.aclsports.com at the team’s hotel in Bielsko-Biala on the eve of their second group game versus the USA, the attacking full back says “I am aware from the records that Nigeria has played in two previous filans (1989 and 2005) so since the day we got the ticket for this tournament I have dreamt of playing in the World Cup final”.
Throughout the last season and since he was made skipper of the U20s, Utin had become something of a hot property and his Nigerian club Enyimba protected him, refused any “trials abroad”. Just before the start of Poland 2019 Utin put pen to paper on a contract with Israeli top tier side Maccabi Haifa. At the moment he is not thinking about that until after this tournament.
“It is a great honour for me to play for my country and moreso being made the captain of the team. It is why in this tournament I try to impress on my team mates the importance of doing our very best to make Nigerians proud of us”.
The Flying Eagles made a good start with the 4-0 thumping of Qatar in the opening group game. The US with their good history in age-group tournaments will be a different proposition. “We thank God for the win over Qatar” Utin starts philosophically again, “the match against USA (and this is the attitude we have agreed amongst us) we are going to treat like a cup final. Simple. We go into any game with the mindset that if we lose we are out.
Our technical crew have given us pointers and ideas of how they will play and how we too should play. We expect it to be a tough game but in the end we just want to make Nigeria proud”.
Already with an assist in the opening game win, it is not really a surprise who his hero and role model on the pitch is “Real Madrid and Brazil left back Marcelo is who I watch closely all the time and I try to play my game like his”.
Image: FIFA via Getty Images