The Nigeria U-20 national team, the Flying Eagles, suffered a demoralizing defeat at the hands of Senegal in their opening fixture of the 2023 Africa U-20 Cup of Nations.
This was a rematch of the 2015 final, in which Nigeria had emerged victorious, but this time it was Senegal who had the upper hand. As a result, Nigeria now sits at the base of Group A, behind Senegal, Egypt, and Mozambique.
The match, which took place at the Cairo International Stadium, was a slow and uneventful affair in its early moments. Neither team created many chances, but as the game went on, Senegal started to look more dangerous. They eventually took the lead in the 40th minute, with Souleymane Faye tapping in from close range after a quick counterattack.
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In the second half, the Flying Eagles continued to struggle to create clear-cut chances. Despite a late attempt on goal in the 87th minute, they were unable to find an equalizer. To make matters worse, Ahmed Abdullahi received a red card in stoppage time for a second bookable offense, leaving Nigeria with 10 men.
This defeat is a disappointing start for the Flying Eagles, who came into the tournament as record champions, having won the U-20 AFCON seven times in the past. They won their first title in 1983, and their most recent triumph was in 2015, when they beat Senegal in the final.
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Ladan Bosso’s side will need to regroup quickly if they hope to turn things around in their next match, which is against Mozambique. The Flying Eagles will need to win that match to have any chance of advancing to the knockout stage of the competition.
Meanwhile, hosts Egypt and Mozambique played out a goalless draw in the other Group A fixture. This means that all four teams in the group are tied on one point each, with Senegal currently leading the way on goal difference.
Overall, the 2023 Africa U-20 Cup of Nations is shaping up to be an exciting and closely contested tournament, with all eight teams in the competition vying for the title. The top four teams from each group will advance to the quarterfinals, with the winners of those matches progressing to the semifinals and eventually the final.