The game between Nigeria and England in the Round of 16 of FIFA U-20 World Cup Colombia 2011 pits the African side’s attack - the highest scoring in the group stages - against a watertight English backline that is yet to concede a goal.
Given their outstanding record in Group D, when they notched up three emphatic wins against Guatemala, Croatia and Saudi Arabia, coach John Obuh’s highly motivated and well-drilled Nigerian side are certainly the form team in this tie. The canny coach will also hope his prolific pairing of Ahmed Musa and Olarenwaju Kayode can continue a purple patch that has seen them claim half their team’s goal tally to date.
Their defence may be impregnable, but three games into this edition and England are still without a win. This unwanted run goes back to a 1-0 victory over Mexico in 1997, a winless streak at FIFA U-20 World Cup final tournaments now stretching to 13 games. Though the pressure is on coach Brian Eastick to find a solution to his side’s difficulties in front of goal, the supremo remains defiant: “It’s no use scoring if you’re letting in three at the other end". Even so, on the evidence of the Nigerians’ performances so far, goalkeeper Jack Butland is sure to have plenty to do on Wednesday.
12 – The number of goals scored by Nigeria in the group phase at Colombia 2011, more than any other team. In stark contrast, England qualified for the last 16 on the back of three goalless draws.
“The Nigeria game will be difficult, but every game we’ve played has been harder than the last! We’ll be facing powerful players who are very quick and very fit. Nigeria are favourites, but we’ve made it past the group stages and we have to try and win,” England coach Brian Eastick.
“The team have been working together for a long time and of course our goal is to keep progressing and be successful in the long term. But for the time being I’m not looking any further than our next match, and I know that there are some great teams standing between us and the title, such as Brazil, Argentina and Colombia,” Nigeria coach John Obuh.