As hands of the clock ticks away to the start of this year’s FIFA Under-20 World Cup, bragging rights seem limitless among coaches and players of the 24 participating teams, and the Nigerian team are not an exception. Manu Garba, head coach of the Flying Eagles who have been in the news lately for all the right reasons, says his team are confident of beating Brazil at the tournament in New Zealand.
Nigeria are nestled in Group E of the competition along with the five-time champions, North Korea and Hungry, with the Flying Eagles playing the South Americans in the group’s opening game on June 1. Not a are skeptical about Nigeria’s ability to beat Brazil, as the African champions have yet to beat the Junior Selecao at this level with their best result achieved 10 years ago when they drew goalless in a group game at the competition in the Netherlands.
But Garba, whose squad have yet to lose a game since two years ago when he took over as coach, says he will be going for broke against Brazil in New Zealand.
“This is not to say we will be overconfident,” said Garba. “We are confident in ourselves to beat Brazil in our opening game. “I respect all the teams who have qualified for this championship and that includes Brazil, who have been good at this level, but believe you me, Brazil is Brazil and Nigeria is Nigeria. “Brazil have won the World Cup several times, but Nigeria have got silver twice and a bronze. “At Under-17 level, we are rated No.1 in the world. And half of the team to New Zealand are from the last U17 team.
“We are a united team who have conquered the world at U17 level and we have now been joined by other players who are more technically balanced than some of them from the U17s. So, I believe we are ready to take on any team.”
He added: “But I also know that the first match in any tournament is the most important and so we will do all we can to pick up the maximum three points against Brazil, which will go a long way to motivate the team in subsequent matches. “I could recall Mexico came to last U17 World Cup as defending champions and they had not lost a match for two years. But against a Nigerian side, who did not play a test game for a month, we defeated them 6-1.”