Despite a missed penalty at the stroke of half time, Nigeria was held by group leaders Ukraine to a 1-1 draw, a result good enough to see the Flying Eagles into the second round of the on-going FIFA U-20 World Cup.
Nigeria needed a win to be sure of making the second round from Group D, but the draw sufficed as the Flying Eagles were adjudged as one of the best sides among the third-paced teams in the competition.
The Flying Eagles finished third in the group behind Ukraine and the U.S., which defeated Qatar 1-0 in the other game played simultaneously with Nigeria’s match.
Going into yesterday’s match played at the Bielsko-Biala Stadium, Coach Paul Aigbogun brought in some new players into his first team, with Igoh Ogbu replacing the injured Valentine Ozornwafor in central defence; Nnamdi Ofoborh taking over from Jamil Muhammad and Success Makanjuola for Henry Offia, while striker, Tijani Muhamed started in place of Jerome Akor.
Nigeria had the first shot at goal when Zilkifilu Rabiu tested Ukraine’s goalkeeper, Andriy Lunin in the eight minute, but nothing came out of it.However, the Ukrainians opened scores in the 30th minute when goalkeeper Oremade mistimed a cross, which Danylo Sikan coolly nodded into the net.
What would have been Nigeria’s equalizer in the 45th minute was fluffed by Tijani Muhamed, whose tame penalty kick was saved by Lunin. The VAR came to Nigeria’s rescue in the 51st when it ruled that Denys Popov handled the ball in the box. Muhamed made no mistake this time as he sent Lunin the wrong way to draw the Flying Eagles level. Nigeria will now face the winner of Group (Italy or Japan) in the second round of the competition.
Here’s the highlights of the game.