Acting President of Nigeria Football Federation, Chief Mike Umeh has called on players and officials of the U-20 National Team, Flying Eagles, and the U-20 Women National Team, Falconets, to guard against complacency in important international matches this weekend.
The U-20 boys host their counterparts from Lesotho in a 2015 African Youth Championship qualifying series final round, first leg encounter at the Ahmadu Bello Stadium on Saturday, while the girls lock horns with New Zealand in the quarter finals of the 7th FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup finals in Canada.
“It is important that our U-20 boys and girls approach their different matches with utmost seriousness. I mean that they should banish the temptation to under –rate their opponents,” Umeh, himself a one –time Team Manager of the Senior National Team, said in Abuja on Thursday.
Lesotho has a far smaller name in African football than Nigeria and there will definitely be the temptation to under –rate the visitors. “But football is no longer that way and any so-called big team that takes the opposition for granted could leave itself open for a sucker punch.”
The delegation of the Junior Crocodiles is scheduled to arrive in Abuja on Friday, before heading to Kaduna. It would be recalled that Lesotho defeated better –fancied Angola home and away in the previous round of the qualifying series.
However, the Flying Eagles, loaded with record fourth FIFA U-17 Cup winners in United Arab Emirates last year, also dismissed Tanzania home and away in the previous round.
Umeh also told the U-20 girls, Falconets, not to look down on their quarter final opponents, New Zealand.
“It is true that our girls have been improving steadily with each match and I am happy about that. But they should not under –estimate the New Zealand girls, who defeated Paraguay and won handsomely against Costa Rica to reach this stage.”
Nigeria’s Falconets drew 1-1 with Mexico in their first match but won 2-1 against Korea Republic and England, arguably playing better each time. Sunday’s clash at the Moncton Stadium in Moncton is only the second –ever meeting between Nigeria and New Zealand at the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup. On November 19, 2008 in Coquimbo, Chile, goals by Sarah Michael, Ogonna Chukwudi and Rita Chikwelu steered the Falconets to a 3-2 win over the New Zealanders in a group phase match.
Victory in Saturday’s match will stand the Flying Eagles in good stead for a spot at the 2015 African Youth Championship, while victory over New Zealand on Sunday will earn the Falconets their third successive semi final berth at the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup finals.