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Ndidi: Nigeria have closed the gap on the world's best nations

20:38 BST 12/10/2019
Croatia vs. Nigeria - Wilfred Ndidi, Mario Mandzukic
The West African country has dominated youth tournaments on the global stage but failed to scale dizzy heights at senior level

Leicester City and Nigeria international midfielder Wilfred Ndidi feels the Super Eagles have made significant strides in becoming a side to be reckoned with in world football.

Nigeria have failed to build-up on their dominance in youth tournaments where they have won five Fifa Under-17 World Cup titles and the 1996 Olympic gold medal.

They have also twice finished as runners-up at Under-20 World Cup's as well as receiving Olympic silver and bronze medals in 2008 and 2016 respectively.

But in six Fifa World Cup appearances, the three-time African champions' best showing at the global soccer showpiece is reaching the second round in 1994, 1998 and 2014.

Despite failing to get past the group stage at the 2018 Fifa World Cup, Ndidi believes they have significantly improved on the world stage where they have closed the gap between themselves and big teams.

“With the right mindset and belief in our qualities, and playing together as a team and not just individuals, we can make every game count and get the wins to go as far as possible,” Ndidi told The Strait Times.

“We have closed the gap and we are still growing. As we grow, experience comes. We beat Argentina before the World Cup and during the World Cup we lost 2-1 to a late goal. But that is where we get the growth and experience.

“You can see we are trying to play a young team at the World Cup and at the African Cup of Nations where we reached the semi-finals and lost to champions Algeria.”

Following the retirement of striker Odion Ighalo who recently quit international football while on a high together with former captain John Obi Mikel, Nigeria have promising youngsters coming through as they bid to become a global powerhouse.

In-form young forwards Emmanuel Bonaventure Dennis of Club Brugge and Lille’s Victor Osimhen provide hope for the future along with Samuel Chukwueze of La Liga side Villarreal.

“We are young, mobile, and we can play good football. Everything comes with time, we are trying our best and we are getting there,” said Ndidi.

The three-time African champions continue to build their squad under coach Gernot Rohr as they prepare to take on five-time world champions Brazil in an international friendly match in Singapore on Sunday.