The Flying Eagles will be making their ninth appearance at the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Turkey. The only African team that has a better record than Nigeria at the world youth showpiece event is Ghana, who have four semi-final appearances and one victory to their name, while the Flying Eagles have thrice made it to the round of the last four. In 1989 and 2005, they were beaten finalists, while in 1985 they finished third. Turkey 2013 will be the fifth consecutive appearance for the west Africans and each time the team has managed to escape the group phase, which is a record the class of 2013 are keen to emulate.
After twice losing in the final of the World Cup, the Flying Eagles are desperate to finally land the trophy. Their performance at the African U-20 championships in Algeria, where they secured their ticket for Turkey, however suggests that they will have their work cut out for them if they are secure their first global U-20 title. A defeat against Mali in their opening match put them under pressure from the start, and although they managed the two victories against Gabon and DR Congo they needed to make the last four, they were convincingly beaten by champions Egypt in the semis. A 2-1 win against Mali in the play-off match saw them finish third, with top striker Aminu Umar grabbing both goals.
It seems likely that there will be some changes in the Nigerian side ahead of the World Cup finals - where they will face Cuba, South Korea and Portugal - later this year. As defending champions in Algeria, the Flying Eagles were expecting at least a place in the final, and even though the team finished third, it could not completely gloss over their performance. Coach John Obuh was honest in his appraisal after the victory in the play-off. "This was not what we expected. But we had to do everything to take something back home. This is our gold after we failed to reach the final," he said.