Leading goal scorer at the ongoing African Youth Championship in Senegal, Taiwo Awoniyi has vowed that the Flying Eagles will triumph over the Black Satellites of Ghana in the semi final game between the two West African giants today.
The Manu Garba-led side progressed to the last four of the tournament with seven points after winning two games and drawing 2-2 with Ivory Coast in their final group game, last Saturday.
On records, Nigeria have only beaten the Black Satellites once in their last five meetings at the AYC, but the nation’s U-20 team understand the task ahead of them and have promised to deliver nothing but victory to all Nigerians at the end of the game.
It was at the 2011 tournament in South Africa when a goal by Uche Nwofor and the individual brilliance of Ahmed Musa combined to dump the defending world champions.
However, the Flying Eagles have lost to their West African rivals on the other four occasions they have clashed – in 1985 (2-1), 1993 (1-0), 1999 (1-0) and 2001 (4-1).
“We know the entire country expects only one thing from us victory. And we will deliver and in the final on Sunday,” vowed striker Taiwo Awoniyi, who has shone at this tournament with three goals thus far.
“There will really be no point qualifying for the World Cup, if we cannot go there as champions of Africa,” added coach Manu Garba ahead of this epic semifinal.
“Our tournament starts with this game and we have to be prepared to win it so as to stay on track for our main target, which is to be champions of Africa.
“This is the final before the final; it will even be tougher than the final.”
Ghana, who have won this competition four times, were disappointing against fellow West Africans Mali in a final group game on Sunday, but coach Sellas Tetteh insisted he gave several untested players a run so as not to risk star players like Yaw Yeboah and Samuel Tetteh, who were already on a booking each.
“We will put our house in order to face Nigeria. We’re capable,” maintained the coach, who led the Black Satellites to win Africa’s first U20 World Cup six years ago.
The Flying Eagles will go into Wednesday’s encounter with a psychological edge having defeated their rivals 2-0 in Tema in a friendly last month.
The first warm-up between both teams in Accra ended in an exciting 2-2 draw.
Kick-off time at the Leopold Sedar Senghor Stadium is 6pm Nigerian time.