Nigeria’s Flying Eagles will start the defence of their Under-20 African Championship title at the Stade Ahmed Zabana in Oran this afternoon.
John Obuh’s men were champions in South Africa in 2011 and have now been drawn in Group B alongside Mali, DRC and Gabon.
The Nigerians, six-time winners of the African Youth Championship (AYC), kick off their campaign against West African opponents, Mali.
The last time both teams met in the AYC in Johannesburg, South Africa at the semifinal stage two years ago, the Nigerians triumphed 2-0.
Five players from Nigeria’s championship-winning team of two years ago are in the present team, this time to defend the title.
The players are Mohammed Goyi Aliyu, Chidi Osuchukwu, Kayode Olarenwaju, Edafe Egbedi and Abduljeleel Ajagun, who is now captain of the team.
Obuh has also included the talented trio of Christian Pyagbara (Sharks), Alhaji Gero (Enugu Rangers) and Ikechukwu Okorie (Enyimba) to the squad.
But Nigeria will start the AYC with one injury concern. Enugu Rangers’ goalkeeper, Emmanuel Daniel is out for a few days and it is likely ABS shot-stopper, Jonah Usman could start between the sticks.
The Malian Under-20 national team go into the AYC with a talented young squad mixed with local and overseas players.
Mali head coach, Moussa Keita will look to talented youngsters like Boubakary Diarra (FC Nantes), Aboubacar Ibrahima Toungara (Centre Salif Keita), Abdoulaye Keita (Bastia), Boubacar Diarra (TP Mazembe), Samba Diallo (Djoliba AC) and Tiekoro Keita (Guingamp) to upset the apple cart when they face Nigeria today.
Nigeria will play all of their group matches in the Algerian city of Oran.