Caf U-20 African Championship kicks off

The African Youth Championship begins today in Algeria to determine Africa’s representatives to the World Cup in Turkey

All road leads to Algeria for the biggest youth football fiesta in Africa. Apart from the trophy which is the bone of contention, it will also serve as qualifiers to determine the four African representatives at the FIFA World Youth Championship to be staged in Turkey later this year.

Defending champions, Flying Eagles of Nigeria will be hoping to replicate the senior team's success at the just concluded Nations Cup. Having conquered Africa six times, finished as runners up twice, the John Obuh lads will want to extend their lead as the undisputed king of African youth football. It is also noteworthy that Nigeria holds the record as the highest scoring team in the history of this competition with fifty six goals.

The Black Satellites of Ghana, the only African team to have won the world title and the Young Pharaohs will not be coming for a jamboree as they parade some of the finest young players on the continent. These countries have been crowned champions thrice, and for this reason they are strong contenders for this cup.

Also, the Young Eagles of Mali are no strangers either as they will be hoping to make their 9th appearance count with gold. This trophy has eluded them as they can only boast of a second place finish since its debut. Even at this, they have produced great football stars that have taken the world by storm.

Though the other teams look like starters, one should not rule out the possibility of an upset. Host nation Algeria will be hoping to make home advantage count as they will be showing up for the first time since the current format was adopted. Another country that rings a bell is DR Congo who shocked household name Cameroon in qualifying.

The Young Squirrels of Benin will not be carried away by the prospect of qualifying for another World Youth Championship after they left many mouths wide open with their impressive showing in Holland at their very first time of asking. Gabon will be making her second appearance ever in Algeria.

For the records, it will interest you to know that 20 percent of the 168 players who will be participating are moulded abroad with DR Congo boasting of eight, the highest of all the teams - thirty two foreign based stars, fifteen of them ply their trades in the French league. The story is not different for the coaches as DR Congo and hosts Algeria will be tutored by foreign managers from France.

Let the games begin!