22 December 2014 10:05
Nigeria coaching duo of Manu Garba and Emmanuel Amuneke are optimistic that their respective U-20 and U-17 teams would be strong contenders at next year’s Orange African U-20 in Senegal and African U-17 Championship following the draws on Sunday in Cairo, Egypt.
While U-20 side, nicknamed Flying Eagles were drawn against the host, Senegal alongside Cote d’Ivoire and Congo, their U-17 counterparts, Golden Eaglets, were also drawn with hosts Niger, Guinea and Zambia in what could be regarded as a fairly delicate groupings.
Yet, Manu who guided Nigeria to a record fourth FIFA Under-17 World Cup in 2013 remains confident about adding to the country’s six record African titles in Senegal.
“Our group seems tougher than the other group which has Ghana, Mali, Zambia and South Africa, but I believe we will qualify to the semi-finals along with Cote d’Ivoire,” said Manu.
“But this is not to say that all the eight teams are not good enough to win the competition. We will expect no favours from any of them.”
Manu is indeed, wary of the threat posed by the Ivoirians after they edged his free-scoring Under-17 side to win the CAN U-17 Championship last year in Morocco and it is expected that both sides would feature most of the players that battled it out the last time in Marrakech.
“We are not driven to avenge the loss in Morocco because this will be a different competition and we will have two different teams from the ones from last year,” Manu noted.
“We respect Cote d’Ivoire because they have a great football culture, but we hope to beat any team we come up against.”
Similarly, Amuneke was enthusiastic about the chances of the new set of Golden Eaglets, adding he was not oblivious about the challenges of playing against the host in front of a partisan crowd n Niamey.
“I feel it is a fair grouping not minding the fact that we are going to face the host country, Niger,” Amuneke stated.
“We are not going to underrate any of the teams and as I said before the draw, our sole objective in Niger is to qualify for the World Cup. After that, we can begin to talk about other things.”
Incidentally, Amuneke who assisted Manu when the Golden Eaglets white-washed Niger and Guinea 10-1 and 7-0 on aggregate respectively in the qualifiers for the 2013 edition in Morocco, said he was not ignorant about the obvious challenges in Niger 2015.
“We are aware of the task ahead of us and what happened between the Golden Eaglets and Niger the last time is immaterial now. Our boys have to go out there and show that this set of Golden Eaglets is good in their own right.
“What we have to do now is to prepare ourselves very well; and going to Niger with the sole objective to qualify for the World Cup in Chile.”
The former African Footballer of the Year who scored the brace for Nigeria’s Super Eagles in the 2-1 defeat of Chipolopolo of Zambia at the 1994 African Cup of Nations added:“Zambia and Guinea too have equal chances with us. For them to be at this tournament, we need to respect them. They played and won their matches to be in Niger and their objective would also be to qualify for the World Cup in Chile.
“We know the pedigree of Zambia because they always have good youth teams. Also, we were privileged to play Guinea and beat them the last time but what we have done in the past is past tense and we are looking forward to the new challenges at the tournament.
The semi-finalists at the two championships will represent the continent at the 2015 FIFA U-20 World Cup and FIFA U-17 World Cup in New Zealand and Chile respectively.