Nigeria were prepared to stage a return at the 2019 Africa U20 Cup of Nations, according to captain Ikouwem Utin.
Paul Aigbogun’s men were ruthless at the Agege Stadium on Saturday, putting five unreplied goals past Mauritania to go through 6-1 on aggregate, having secured an advantageous 1-1 draw away at the Stade Olympique, Nouakchott.
A brace from Nazifi Yahaya with goals apiece from Wasiu Alalade, Okon Asuquo and debutant Aremu Afeez were enough to halt the visitors’ progress and, thus, saw the Flying Eagles make a return to the competition having failed to qualify for the previous edition in 2017.
“When preparation meets opportunity, success always come in. We’ve prepared for it and we have qualified,” Utin told Goal.
“In the game of football, there's no small team. [Mauritania] are a good side because they disqualified Morocco and Equatorial Guinea but we thank God for today because we were able to take them out of the qualifiers.
Due to heavy downpour in Lagos, the Flying Eagles were forced to do battle on a waterlogged pitch; a condition the Enyimba left-back saw as no excuse.
“Before we started the game we told ourselves that no matter the condition we find ourselves - even if the referees’ decisions don't go our way - we are going to go for it and win the game,” he said.
Next year, the team will take part in the 15th edition of the African U20 Cup of Nations in the Niger Republic, and Utin says their target is “to go there and win the Nations Cup.”
The event is billed for 24 February – 10 March 2019, and the top four teams in the tourney will represent Africa at the 2019 Fifa U-20 World Cup in Poland.