Nigeria national U20 team the Flying Eagles on Thursday wobbled into the next round of the 2019 FIFA Under 20 World Cup after holding Ukraine to a 1-1 draw in Bielsko-Biala.
Striker Tijani Muhammad scored from the penalty spot, his second spot kick of the day in the 51st minute to cancel out Danylo Sykan’s 30th minute goal for the Europeans who finished top of Nigeria’s Group D by the virtue of Thursday’s draw.
Paul Aigbogun’s Eagles went into the game with three points from their opening two games after following up an opening day 4-0 win over Qatar with an embarrassing 0-2 loss to the United States.
Nigeria were without defender Valentine Ozornwafor and defensive midfielder Jamil Muhammad for Thursday’s game and they went behind on the half hour mark when goalkeeper Olawale Oremade misjudged an Oleksiy Kashchuk cross, allowing Sikan to head into an unguarded post.
Muhammad who was largely ineffective was however handed a chance to equalise on the dot of half time after he was fouled in the penalty box but goalkeeper Andriy Lunin dived low to his left to keep out his kick.
Four minutes after the break though, the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) ruled in favour of Muhammad after his effort was handled by Denys Popov. The big striker this time sent Lunin the wrong way.
Neither side could fashion out any good scoring opportunity in the remainder of the half but both sides will progress to the round of sixteen; Ukraine as group winners while Nigeria qualify as third from the group and one of the four best losers.
With four groups already concluded, only Poland in Group A have a better record than Nigeria’s 4 points and +2 goals difference. It means that regardless of the outcome of the final group games in Groups E and F on Friday, Nigeria already have a place in the round of 16.
In Group D’s other game on Thursday, PSG striker Timothy Weah scored a second half winner as USA laboriously defeated group’s Whipping Boys Qatar 1-0. The win sealed the Americans’ progress to the next round as second with six points behind Ukraine.
Picture: Getty Images via FIFA