Nigeria starts U20 World Cup surge… Brazil, Italy get past ‘Group of Death’ first
Nigeria’s rise to prominence in Group D at the FIFA U20 World Cup Argentina 2023 continues.
Nigeria earned a 2-0 victory over Italy in their U20 World Cup Group D match at the Estadio Malvinas Argentinas in Mendoza, Argentina on Friday (June 25).
Nigeria took the lead in the 16th minute when substitute striker Emanuel Umech tangled with an Italian defender, rose to his feet and sent in a cross that Salim Fago Lawal finished with a diving header. It was a goal made possible by a lapse in concentration. Jude Sunday added a second in stoppage time.
Italy failed to capitalize on their early chances, with striker Giuseppe Ambrosino hitting the crossbar and midfielder Tommaso Baldanchi seeing a shot saved.
The result sees Nigeria advance from the group stage. Nigeria sits atop the group with two wins from two games. Brazil and Italy are second and third in the group with one win and one loss, respectively. The Dominican Republic is in last place with two losses.
Nigeria’s place in the group is still up in the air, but with three teams with two wins and one loss, they’ll advance to the Round of 16 even if they finish third. Four teams will join the round of 16 in the order of the best three finishers in each group, which is already a given. 안전놀이터
Originally, Group D was labeled as the group of death because it contained both South American and European powerhouses. And after Italy’s 3-2 win over Brazil in the first round, they quickly emerged as the favorites. However, Nigeria upset the odds by beating Italy to top the group.
The Azzurri started the game against Nigeria with many of the same players who were part of their earlier victory over Brazil, including 17-year-old Italy A talent Simone Papundi, Chelsea prospect Cesare Cassaday, who scored two goals against Brazil, and Baldanchi, who is already a first-team Italian Serie A midfielder. But they couldn’t get past Nigeria.
Nigeria is naturally strong in age-group competitions. Players like Nwankwo Kanu, J.J. Okocha, and Sunday Oliseh, who won gold at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, were the first generation to put Nigerian soccer on the map. The 2005 U20 World Cup runners-up featured stars like John Obi Mikel. They are the most prolific winners of the U17 World Cup, having won five of the 18 editions. Victor Osimhen, the 2015 tournament’s top scorer, is now a global star eight years later.