Head coach of Nigeria’s Under 20 men’s national team Paul Aigbogun says his team is not under pressure to perform at the U20 Africa Cup of Nations which gets underway in Niamey, Niger on Saturday.
The Flying Eagles are drawn in Group A of the tournament alongside hosts Niger, South Africa and their first group opponents Burundi. The young Nigerian side will face Burundi in their tournament opener at the General Seyni Kountché in Niamey, the Nigerien capital.
Nigeria failed to qualify for the 2017 edition of the competition after having won it in Senegal in 2015. The Flying Esgles, seeking for a record eight trophy are captained by Enyimba’s left back Ikouwem Udo Utin.
“Our main goal for this competition is to qualify for the World Cup,” said Aigbogun summarily at the pre-match press conference on Friday.
“As regards our first game tomorrow (Saturday) against Burundi, we are not under any pressure and we are prepared for the task so there’s nothing special,” he added.
Hosts Niger and the Amajitas of South Africa will contest the tournament’s opening fixture at 4:30pm Nigerian time on Saturday before Aigbogun’s wards take the centre stage against Burundi at the same venue at 7:30pm Nigerian time.
In the mean time, the Confederation of African Football (CAF) have appointed Cameroonian referred Antoine Max Depadoux Effa Essouma as the centre referee for the Nigeria/Burundi clash.
Aside the captain Ikouwem, Nigeria also boast of some entertaining prospects. Former Akwa United Afeez Aremu is expected to play a crucial role in the midfield while Aniekeme Okon and Nazifi Yahaya are attacking talents that the team will look up to going forward.
The four semi-finalists in the eight-team tournament will represent Africa at the 2019 World Youth Championship in Poland later in the year. The U20 AFCON will last for exactly two week (February 2 – 17, 2009).