* Picks Nwakali, Osimhen, 16 others for Battle of Bujumbura
Ahead of Saturday’s AFCON Under -20 qualifying match against the Young Swallows of Burundi, Flying Eagles coach Emmanuel Amuneke is confident of his side chances of qualifying for the 2017 African Cup of Nations U-20 championship billed for Zambia.
The Flying Eagles face Burundi in the first leg, second qualifying round. And the former Nigeria international believes his youngsters would be ready for the arduous task that awaits them in Bujumbura.
“We are preparing, and have been working pretty hard for the match against Burundi,” Amuneke noted ahead of the team’s departure today via Ethiopian Airline.
“They (players) know what is expected of them and collectively as a team, we are looking forward to the match with optimism.
“Individually and collectively, we are doing everything in order to be on the same page and when we get to Burundi, we are going to give a very good account of ourselves as a team.”
He is aware of Nigeria’s status as defending champions plus a record seven titles, saying he has set both short and long term goals for the Flying Eagles.
“I’m not under any pressure but our business now is qualification for the Under-20 AFCON in Zambia,” he continued.
“I’m not going to discuss what I know about Burundi here but what I know is that we are going to face a formidable team; and I’m confident we would be ready to play them in their home and when they come here for the return match.
“Though there are factors like high altitude as well as the timing of the match to deal with, we are preparing our players psychologically to be ready for these challenges,” he concluded.
Meanwhile, Amuneke has cast his lot with his FIFA U-17 World Cup winners, with about 15 of them making the list of 18 players of the U-20 squad.
Kelechi Nwakali, named the Player of the Tournament at the FIFA U-17 World Cup finals in Chile, where Nigeria scooped a fifth title, is joined by tournament best scorer Victor Osimhen and Bronze Boot winner Samuel Chukwueze.
There are also goalkeeper Akpan Udoh, defenders Ejike Ikwu, John Lazarus and Udochukwu Anumudu, midfielders Orji Okonkwo and Kingsley Michael and forwards Chukwudi Agor and Chinedu Madueke.
Nigeria and Burundi clash in a second round, first leg qualifying tie at the Prince Louis Stadium in Bujumbura on Saturday, starting from 3pm Burundi time (1pm Nigeria time). The winner of this fixture will confront Sudan in the final qualifying round.
THE SQUAD: Kelechi Nwakali, Akpan Udoh, Chukwudi Agor, Ejike Ikwu, Anas Mohammed, Chinedu Madueke, Tobechukwu Ibe, Gavi Thompson, Samuel Chukwueze, Kehinde Ayinde, Orji Okonkwo, Victor Osimhen, Halilu Zakari, Udochukwu Anumudu, Kingsley Michael, Douglas Uzama, Chiaha Chisom, John Lazarus