Hopes of Flying Eagles winning the FIFA U-20 World Cup were dashed on Thursday by Germany after securing a hard earned 1-0 victory.
Levin Öztunal?’s 19th minute strike was all the European champions needed to silence the Nigerians, despite putting up a brave showing in the second half of the encounter. Kingsley Sokari, who was under pressure lost the ball to Stendera, who passed to Oztunali at the edge of the box to fire a powerful left-footer for the only goal of the match.
Three minutes later, Hany Mukhtar failed to double his side’s lead as his effort was saved by Enaholo who was forced to make four fine saves in the first half.
Flying Eagles, after it lost its opening group match 4-2 to Brazil, roared back to life with 4-0 demolition of North Korea and a 2-0 defeat of Hungary to place second in the group with six points and qualify for the Round of 16.
Unfortunately, Nigeria drew Germany that is arguably the best side in the tournament in the Round of 16. Germany had won all its three group games scoring 16 times and conceding just one.
In his post match conference, Coach Manu Garba, blamed the loss to players’ loss of concentration, even as he added that a lot of lessons were learned from the tournament.
“Our players lost concentration at the crucial moment and this gave the Germans a chance to score,” he said at the post-match news conference.
“I believe that our players learnt a lot from this game and a big lesson in general from the tournament.
“The level at the under-20s is far higher than at the under-17s, and Germany is a very tough and highly tactical team.”
The coach nonetheless praised goalkeeper Joshua Enaholo, saying he played a great game.
“He may have saved that ball (which resulted in the game’s lone goal) if he had a clear view, but there is nothing we can do now,” he said.
Garba was however not singling out the goalkeeper for praise, saying “all my players have been in great form and I am proud of them all.’’
Looking back at the competition as a whole, Garba said there had been so many unexpected results at the tournament, and one could never predict the winner.
Former Super Eagles coach, Christian Chukwu, blamed the exit on tactical deficiency.
Chukwu, however, recommended that the players should be retained to form the future Super Eagles of Nigeria.
Chukwu presently the Technical Adviser of Enugu Rangers International FC explained, “The game I watched this morning the errors started with the goalkeeper. But, the major problem is tactical deficiency.
“They were not marking very well even when they have opportunities they could not convert them. They went deep into the half of the Germans, but without effect.”
Chukwu added, “I will still commend the boys for their performance. Germany could have beating Nigeria 2-0, but the goalkeeper made some good saves.”
Against this backdrop he said, “The team is a formidable one, I think the coaches should start preparing the players for future Super Eagles. They should not be allowed to waste, they are bunch of talents.”
Speaking also, the coach of Germany, Frank Wormuth, said he admired the Nigerian side, especially as the team was very good technically, which makes it extremely difficult to play against.
He however said his team was able to keep the ball under pressure and it was their only chance to break through the Nigerian defence.
“In the end, I give congratulations to my team for finding the answer to the problems Nigeria posed us. They deserved the win and I am very impressed with them.
“I am especially proud of my team’s defence today (Thursday),’’ the coach said.
But former Super Eagles coach, Adegboye Onigbinde, said that Flying Eagles loss brought to the fore the absence of youth development in Nigeria.
He said the team’s failure to go beyond the second round was due to lack of developmental programme in Nigeria’s football.
“I have been into football in Nigeria for the past 20 years, what happened in New Zealand is owing to lack of developmental programmes in the country.
“Let me ask you, tell me one programme for youth development in this country that has produced result?
“This is what I have been advocating for since. It is not the fault of the players, but the systemic failure in the country.
“Tell me how many of those players that came from grassroots youth developmental programme? It is really bad.