Nigeria will today begin her search for a record eighth title as the Total U-20 Africa Cup of Nations gets underway in Niger as they clash against Burundi.
Winners in 1983, 1985, 1987, 1989, 2005, 2011 and 2015, Nigeria failed to defend their title the last time in Zambia after a shock elimination by Sudan via away goals after a 5-5 tie on aggregate.
This time under experienced coach Paul Aigbogun, the Flying Eagles held their nerves with a near perfect campaign and saw off both Guinea Bissau and Mauritania to book their 12th appearance at the biennial event being hosted in Niger for the first time.
Host Niger has a determination and ambition to succeed on both sides: a successful organization and the winning of the trophy. The challenge may seem big for a debutant.
However, given the preparation and the quality of the current squad, nothing is impossible. Head Coach, Soumaïla Tiemogo sums up his state of mind: “Our objective for this 21st edition of Total U-20 AFCON is two-fold; First of all, qualify for the World Cup, then win the title. We have to ambitious. Since May 26, 2015 when the decision was taken by the CAF executive committee to award Niger with the hosting rights, a wind of enthusiasm that blew across over the country, and we mobilized ourselves to meet the challenge.
For more than a year, the technical team gained experience and confidence by rubbing against various styles of play. In March 2018, the Young Menas palyed with Algeria in two tests matches ending in defeats; 2-0 and 6-1.
They also participated in the regional WAFU tournament in Lome, Togo last December.