Argentina 2023: Nigeria beats Dominican Republic, Italy shocks Brazil, Senegal also loses
Next up for the two-time runners-up of the FIFA U20 World Cup is a clash with Italy at the same venue on Wednesday evening
Nigeria’s Flying Eagles earned the first three points of Group D of the ongoing FIFA U20 World Cup in Argentina after an own goal by Guillermo De Rena and a smart finish by Samson Lawal steered them beyond Dominican Republic in Mendoza.
Ibrahim Muhammad’s shot had been firmly held by goalkeeper Xavier Valdez and Jude Sunday and Tochukwu Nnadi had threatened in the fore within the first quarter-hour, before Japanese referee Yusuke Araki opted to consult the Video Assistant Referee and then award a penalty to Dominican Republic in the 20th minute, after a tackle by Daniel Daga.
The resultant penalty was brilliantly converted by Edison Azcona.
Sunday, Nnadi, Fago Lawal, Samson Lawal and Muhammad all doubled their efforts with onslaughts launched towards the opposition, but goalkeeper Valdez was brilliant on the day, especially in tipping over Sunday’s dipping shot from outside the box in the 37th minute.
Defender Solomon Agbalaka, who headed the goal that sank hosts Egypt at the Africa U20 Cup of Nations in January, attempted a similar effort in the 58th minute but found Valdez capable. From a dashing run in the 61st minute, substitute Emmanuel Umeh should have done more than place the ball in the keeper’s waiting hands.
Daga, Sunday and substitute Haliru Sarki all tested the keeper in a second half dominated by Nigeria, but Samson Lawal was very alert to smell blood and capitalize on a defensive lapse by the boys from Dominican Republic to score Nigeria’s winner in the 68th minute. This was a minute after Jude Sunday had the ball in the net from a flowing team move, but it was ruled offside.
“We are happy with the three points though we wanted the boys to win by a higher margin as goals advantage do matter along the line in a competition such as this. The next two matches will be much tougher and I expect the Flying Eagles to also show sterner stuff,” said NFF General Secretary, Dr. Mohammed Sanusi who watched the encounter at the Estadio Malvinas Argentinas in Mendoza.
Next up for the two-time runners-up of the FIFA U20 World Cup is a clash with Italy at the same venue on Wednesday evening. A draw will most certainly guarantee a place in the knockout rounds for the Flying Eagles, ahead of their final group phase encounter with Brazil in La Plata on Saturday.
Elsewhere, two title favorites lost their opening games at the Under-20 World Cup on Sunday when Italy upstaged Brazil 3-2 and Japan produced a shocking 1-0 upset win over Senegal.
Italy raced to a 3-0 lead in the Group D match, opening in the 11th minute when midfielder Matteo Pratti shot from close range. Italy doubled its lead after Brazil goalkeeper Mycael failed to stop a cross and left the ball for a clear header by midfielder Cesare Casadei in the 27th. Casadei added a third in the 35th from the spot.
Brazil regrouped and scored two goals through striker Marcos Leonardo, the first in the 72nd and the second with a header in the 87th, but it was too little too late.
Senegal was stunned early by Japan in its Group C match in La Plata. Striker Kuryu Matsuki scored in the 15th and that allowed the Japanese to sit back. Senegal winger Samba Diallo, one of the expected stars of the tournament, failed to deliver and was substituted in the 73rd.