Looking at the Flying Eagles opponents at the upcoming U20 Afcon, one could easily just focus on both Niger and South Africa as being the major hurdles to scale. But that would be a disastrous mistake because Burundi is actually the team in true form.
If you don't believe me just ask the current African champion Zambia, who will not be in Niger courtesy of the Junior Swallows in the War aka Junior Itamba.
The Young Chipolopolo were thoroughly outplayed both home and away (1-1 and 3-0), though they complained bitterly about their opponents fielding over-aged players. In response, the Junior Itamba coach Bipfubusa Joslin, pointed out the Burundians grow up fast and are naturally big for their age - an explanation that Caf accepted.
Prior to that encounter, the team had also beaten Sudan on a 3:1 aggregate. Remember, this is the same Sudan that denied the Flying Eagles participation at the last U20 Afcon after beating them based on their better away goal tally. Before that, they had put Ethiopia to sword 3:0 also on aggregate.
The Burundians (above) are burly and play fast. They almost always find the open man. Plus since all of them play at home, they have been together for a while and know each other well. Seven alone come from the Black Eagle FC. In other words, they are a cohesive unit and play as such.
Nigeria cannot afford to stumble when they take to the field, in Niamey on Saturday and must play with their ears pinned back. Coach Paul Aigbogun knows this and has been saying all the right things to keep his team focused and motivated. He also shared with Nigerian fans that winning the first two games is critical as to how far his team will go in their attempt to secure an eighth title as well as a ticket to 2019 U20 WC in Poland.
He has already been thrown a curve ball because, Nigeria despite initial plans to arrive early and get properly acclimatised to Niger, the team will now arrive on Thursday just 72 hours before the big game. Meanwhile, South Africa arrived four days ago and Burundi yesterday.
Time: 7.30 PM (WAT) Saturday, February the 2nd.
Venue: Stade Général Seyni Kountché Capacity: 35,000 Surface: Grass
Game Time Weather: Ideal with 0% chance of rain