FIFA U-20 WORLD CUP
*S’Africa paired with Argentina, Portugal, S’ Korea in ‘Group of Death’
Nigeria’s Flying Eagles were yesterday drawn in Group D of the 2019 FIFA Under-20 World Cup in Poland along with reigning CONCACAF champions United States of America, Ukraine and Qatar.
The Paul Aigbogun’s wards who finished as Africa’s fourth best team a fortnight ago in Niamey, Niger Republic were lucky to avoid host country, Poland in Group A of the 22nd edition of the tournament. The hosts are to battle Colombia, Tahiti and another African representatives, Senegal.
Group B have Mexico, Italy, Japan and Ecuador in one pool.
Honduras leads the teams in Group C with New Zealand, Uruguay and Norway as the others in the group.
Winner of the U-20 AFCON, Mali is leading the pack in Group E with Panama, France and Saudi Arabia as the other teams in the fold,
Africa’s fourth representatives, South Africa is in Group F.
This Group F headlined by the tournament’s most successful team Argentina, Portugal and S
Flying Eagles will open their campaign against Qatar on May 24 in Tychy, before clashing with USA three days later in Bielsko-Biala and then remain in the same city for their final pool match against Ukraine on May 30.
Nigeria finished as runners-up at the FIFA U20 World Cup in 1989 (lost to Portugal in the final in Saudi Arabia) and in 2005 (lost to Argentina in The Netherlands), and won the bronze medals in the old Soviet Union in 1985 (when the Flying Eagles defeated the host nation on penalties in the third place match).
The Flying Eagles defeated USA in the semi finals of the 1989 finals in Saudi Arabia, when two goals by Mutiu Adepoju settled the encounter and took Nigeria to a first-ever final.
Another of Nigeria’s Group D opponents, Qatar, shocked the world in 1981, when the country reached the final of the competition in Australia, only to lose to then West Germany.
Poland will kick-off this edition on May 23 against Colombia in Lodz, the city to also host the final match on June 15.
Bielsko-Biala, Bydgoszcz, Gdynia, Lublin and Tychy are other cities to all host at least two matches with a seeded team.
FIFA legends Bebeto, who won the U-20 World Cup in 1983 and the FIFA World Cup in 1994; and Fernando Couto, who lifted the U-20 title in 1989, made the draw in front of numerous coaches and icons of Polish football.
Speaking shortly after the Draw Ceremony, Bebeto said: “The FIFA U-20 World Cup in 1983 was one of the highlights of my career. Not only because of the matches but also because of the atmosphere, the stadiums and the whole event. As a country with a great footballing history and tradition, Poland will undoubtedly stage a fantastic tournament.”
THE GROUPS AT A GLANCE
Group A: Poland, Colombia, Tahiti, Senegal
Group B: Meixco, Italy, Japan, Ecuador
Group C: Honduras, New Zealand, Uruguay, Norway
Group D: Qatar, Nigeria, Ukraine, USA
Group E: Panama, Mali, France, Saudi Arabia
Group F: Portugal, Korea Republic, Argentina, S’Africa