With both sides already assured of qualifying from Group D of the FIFA U-20 World Cup Colombia 2011, Saturday’s clash between Saudi Arabia and Nigeria in the city of Pereira will decide which of these teams will top the section, after both recorded impressive victories over Croatia and Guatemala.
As if to prove their 5-0 demolition of Guatemala was no accident, Nigeria crashed another five past a hapless Croatia on Wednesday, albeit with Flying Eagles goalkeeper Dami Paul being beaten twice along the way. The African side go into their contest with Saudi Arabia needing a draw to maintain first place in Group D, which would see them play their Round of 16 tie in Armenia.
For his part, Saudi Arabia coach Khalid Al Koroni is also keen to go back to Armenia, the scene of his side’s opening two triumphs. “The team likes Armenia,” he said. “We’re used to it!” To get there, though, the youngsters from the Gulf Kingdom will need to do better than during their last meeting with Nigeria – a draw in an international friendly on 13 March last year.
In what is sure to be a thrilling encounter, all eyes will be on Saudi goalkeeper Abdullah Al Sdairi and his stalwart back line. Their defence is yet to concede a goal in the group stage but now come up against a rampant Nigeria attack, spearheaded by the gifted Ahmed Musa with able support from Olarenwaju Kayode and Uche Nwofor.
1 – The number of times the two sides have met at the FIFA U-20 World Cup. The previous meeting came at the 1989 edition in Saudi Arabia, when the Nigerians won 2-1 en route to a runners-up spot.
Khalid Al Koroni, Saudi Arabia coach: “We’re going to try to win this match and the group, although it’s not going to be easy as Nigeria are a strong side. We faced them in a friendly not long ago and they were well-organised and tough to beat.”
Ahmed Musa, Nigeria forward: “We have to win against Saudi to merit top spot in Group D and that’s what we’re focused on at the moment. Morale is high in the squad and I believe things will go well.”