“If you want to be the best, you have to beat the best,” was Austin Jay Jay Okocha’s message to the Flying Eagles as Nigeria battle hosts Argentina in one of the second round fixtures tonight in the ongoing FIFA U20 World Cup in San Juan.
Nigeria with two consecutive wins against Dominican Republic and Italy, fell 0-2 to Brazil in their last Group D match and slipped to third position on the log and qualified to face Argentina in this next round as one of the best third placed teams.
In a chat with THISDAY yesterday, the former Super Eagles captain said: “When it gets to the knock out stage, the stake is quite different because it becomes tougher for all the teams and mistakes have to be minimal which applies to all the teams including Nigeria and Argentina.
“However, for the team to progress and be the best, you have to beat the best which is the mentality our players will have to apply playing against the host Argentina. We have to fancy our chances to progress into the next stage,” stressed the talented former BBC African Player of the Year winner.
He insisted that Flying Eagles have nothing to lose as underdogs to Argentina.
“We have nothing to lose as underdogs and we have to put the Argentines under pressure, take our chances very well when they come.”
For the records, the Argentines are the most successful nation in the FIFA U20 World Cup history with six titles to their name. Nigeria were the losing finalists to a Lionel Messi-inspired Argentina in Utrecht in 2005.
This is Argentina’s 17th participation in the U20 World Cup. The golden era of the South American nation was from 1995 to 2007 when they remarkably won five out of the seven editions of the U20 World Cup during this period.
Diego Maradona and Lionel Messi have both left their marks on this tournament in style, with the former claiming the Golden Ball when Argentina won their first title in 1979 while Messi repeated the feat in 2005 winning the Golden Boot.
Argentina’s Javier Saviola is the top scorer in the history of the FIFA U-20 World Cup with 11 goals, all of which he scored at the 2001 finals. The Argies enjoyed a 100 percent record in the group phase.
Africa’s other representatives at the 2023 FIFA U20 World Cup, Gambia and Tunisia will face tricky opponents in the Round of 16 of the competition.
Unbeaten Gambia finished top of Group F to progress to the knockout phase and they have booked a last 16 date against Uruguay who finished second in Group E with six points.
Tunisia on the other hand progressed as one of the best third placed teams and will take on Group D leaders Brazil in La Plata in the Round of 16.