All the colour and festivity that only African sides can offer will be in evidence in Ottawa this Thursday when Zambia and Nigeria go head to head at the Frank Clair Stadium for a place in the quarter-finals. The two teams, who finished second in their respective groups, know each other only too well, having crossed swords at the CAF U-20 Championship last February. If that match, a 4-2 win for Nigeria, is anything to go by, then fans are in for a fiercely contested affair.
The Copper Bullets narrowly made it through to this stage after getting their first win of the competition in their final Group B match against Uruguay. Prior to that, George Lwandamina's side drew one and lost one, enabling them to progress to the next round and better their only other appearance at the tournament, at Nigeria 1999. The Flying Eagles also finished second in their section, Group F, although they went unbeaten and did not concede a goal, with victories over Costa Rica and Scotland and a draw with Japan. Unquestionably, confidence is high in the Nigerian camp as they aim to emulate their march to the Final of Netherlands 2005.
Neither side have players out through injury, but suspensions will be a factor. Nigeria welcome back Efe Ambrose after his one-match ban for two yellow cards against Scotland. Zambia, in contrast, will have to do without defender Henry Nnyambe, who picked up a red card in his last match, against Uruguay.
"We don't fear Zambia or anyone else. We beat them 4-2 in the African qualifiers, and you could say that we've still got the confidence that victory gave us. The best team will win, and I expect it to be Nigeria." Ezekiel Bala, Nigeria captain.
"They beat us in the African qualifiers, but this is a different game entirely. They are a strong side, but this time we'll win." Emmanuel Mayuka, Zambia striker.