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Honour at stake as Brazil face table-topping Flying Eagles in score-settling fixture




In the annals of the FIFA U-20 World Cup, no team has presented greater obstacles to Nigeria’s Flying Eagles as the Brazilians have done.

Both teams renew their rivalry this Saturday in La Plata Argentina as Brazil will be seeking to cross the group stage obstacle to get to the Round of 16.

With six points, Nigeria’s qualification is already assured as top seed from Group  D or even as runners-up or one of the third best placed teams.

But Brazil will have to win and also anchor their hopes on the result of the corresponding Italy versus Dominican Republic duel.


A possible win by Italy may spell doom for Brazil, the most winner of the U20 trophy but having a lull in the past eight years.

Their wide margin defeat of Dominican Republic last Wednesday was their first ever win of an Under 20 World Cup match in eight years – their longest-ever drought in the competition.

They will certainly wish to build on the record 6-0 win on Saturday.

It will be the sixth time Nigeria and Brazil will clash at the U20 World Cup.

No team had inflicted more defeat on the Flying Eagles more than Brazil had done.


The best result that the Flying Eagles obtained in their past five encounters with Brazil was the goalless draw in 2005 in Holland.

All the other four were heavy defeats: 3-0 in 1983, 2-0 in 1985, 4-0 in 1987 and 4-2  in 2015.

No nation has made more FIFA U-20 World Cup appearances than Brazil. They are featuring for the 19th time in 2023. Argentina 2023 will be Nigeria’s 13th appearance.

While Nigeria only played the championship match in 1989 and 2005, Brazil are the tournament winners on five occasions, Brazil’s A Seleção have reached the final nine times overall.

Also, Brazil have played more matches (105) and  recorded more wins (73) as well as  scoring more goals (239) than any other team in the history of the competition.


They are the only side to have reached the milestones of  100 matches played and 200 goals scored.

But it is not all positives for Brazil. The South Americans are participating in the finals for the first time since 2015, having missed out on qualification for the last two editions of the tournament.

They earned their place at the FIFA U-20 World Cup  2023 after winning the South American U-20 Championship for a record-extending 12th time in 2023.

Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.


Julio Gonzalez Ferreira: a tale of triumph over adversity



The accident happened on 22 December 2005, on the road between Vicenza and Venice, hours before he was due to fly home to Paraguay for the holidays.

Twenty-seven days later, and despite their best efforts, the medical team were forced to amputate his left arm.

Julio Gonzalez Ferreira was 24 years old. The dreams he had had as a kid kicking the ball around near his childhood home in Asuncion were now over.

Dreams that had been sustained by goals and hard work at club level and with the national team.

He had featured in the Paraguay sides that finished fourth at the FIFA U-20 World Cup Argentina 2001 and won a silver medal at the 2004 Athens Olympics, while his debut on the biggest stage was to come, with La Albirroja having had qualified for the 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany.

“When the surgeon told me that they had to amputate my arm, my world fell apart,” Gonzalez Ferreira told, during a break from his duties with the FIFA Technical Study Group at the FIFA U-20 World Cup Argentina 2023.


 “It’s hard to express everything that went through my head…I even had a pre-contract signed with Roma…I was going to replace my childhood hero, Gabriel Batistuta!” he added.

How did he get through it? “Football was at the heart of it. I knew that my future depended on my perseverance, on the same thing that made me a professional footballer in the first place.

“So I set out with the aim of playing again, no matter what the doctors said, or how many people thought it was impossible,” explains Gonzalez Ferreira, now 42 years old.

While Vicenza offered him a coaching role within their youth set-up as his recovery advanced, Julio returned to Paraguay in 2007, and signed with Tacuary.

There, after a great deal of hard work, on 18 November 2007, 22 months and 26 days after the accident, he took to the field and played professionally once more.


With his brother Celso playing alongside him, Gonzalez Ferreira was on the field for nearly 60 minutes against a powerful Olimpia side.

The story made headlines worldwide, and served as inspiration for thousands of people. “That achievement meant that football could be the main priority in my life once more. Since then, I’ve stayed in the game in one form or another.”

He retired in 2008. Since then, he has worked with Inter Milan’s foundation in Paraguay, running training sessions for children from disadvantaged backgrounds. He also qualified as a coach, working in the lower divisions. Last year, he joined the FIFA Legends programme.

His time at the current tournament in Argentina is, he says, “bringing back so many memories”.

It was here that he was one of the key players when Paraguay secured a historic fourth place finish in the U-20 World Cup Argentina 2001. He is surprised when shows him a video of the two goals he scored in that competition, against Iran in the group stage and against Ukraine in the round of 16.


 “I really wanted to see them again. They bring back such happy memories, a really nice feeling!” he smiles.

He speaks with a touch of emotion when asked what it means to him to form part of the FIFA Technical Study Group here. “It’s life’s way of answering me, of saying ‘this is your reward for all that effort, all that sacrifice, for never giving up, never throwing in the towel. Life and football are repaying you now.’”

In between memories, the former forward organises his papers and his tablet ahead of the first of the round of 16 games.

During the matches, he observes and analyses all the “tactical, technical, physical and even psychological aspects of the game, generating data that the teams and players can then use.

And FIFA makes them available to the world of football via their Training Centre, which anyone can access,” he explains. “All this material we generate is fantastic, because it goes into a final report for the tournament.


“Have you any idea how valuable all this information would have been in my time as a player?” he adds.

With his coach’s eye, he has been impressed by what he has seen so far in the tournament, particularly “how the teams are building play from the goalkeeper or the central defenders, through the full-backs and midfield and ending up in organised attacking plays”.

The next game is about to begin, and Gonzalez Ferreira dives back into his work with a smile, happy at what he now helps to create. Football always gives a second chance to those who persevere.


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Flying Eagles fly home on Tuesday



After a mission impossible at getting to the championship game of the U20 World Cup in Argentina, the Flying Eagles will return home on Tuesday.

They fought gamely but lost after extra time to Korea Republic at the quarter final stage on Sunday.

Two-time runners-up Nigeria dominated for large parts of the game but were eliminated from the FIFA U20 World Cup by a single goal on Sunday as Korea Republic surged into the semi-finals for the second successive tournament.

The Flying Eagles, who eliminated hosts and six-time champions Argentina in the Round of 16 on Wednesday, created few chances despite passing the ball round the field quite well, with lack of punch in the final third the undoing of the seven-time African champions.

Victor Eletu, whose show of guts and grits led to the second goal that ended Argentina’s hope on Wednesday, curled a fine shot from outside the box on the half hour, but the Korean goalkeeper punched it out of danger.


In a highly cagey affair, both teams watched each other closely and only few risks were taken throughout the first period.

In the second period, Nigeria looked more adventurous with defender Daniel Bameyi striking from the edge of the box, only to see his effort stopped by the goalkeeper. In added time, Emmanuel Umeh’s dazzling run ended with a shot that was also smartly held by the Korean goal-tender.

The Asian vice champions got the winner five minutes into the first period of extra time, when substitute Sun Choi met a corner kick with a glancing header, and Nigeria goalkeeper Chijioke Aniagboso was in no man’s land.  

Umeh, with a great chance to equalize in the 109th minute, blazed over the bar, and in the final minute, struck the side of the net.

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End of the road for Flying Eagles



Nigeria’s Flying Eagles, the last African team standing have crashed out of the FIFA U20 World Cup after losing 1-0 to Korea Republic after extra time in a quarter-finals clash.

And so, as it was at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, South Korea have again sent Nigeria packing.

No thanks to Seokhun Choi’s header in the fifth minute of the extra time. That settled the encounter which the Flying Eagles obviously had more ball possession.

Until the back-breaking goal, Nigeria had gone 545 minutes – over nine hours – without conceding against an Asian side in the competition .

 The Taegeuk Warriors will now face Italy on Thursday for a place in the final. The Flying Eagles had the better of the play during the first 90 minutes, but struggled to create any meaningful opportunities against a resilient defence.


Victor Ehuwa Eletu had the best of them following a jinking dribble, but his shot was tipped round the post by Kim Joonhong.

To extra-time it went, with Korea Republic making the breakthrough via a corner. Lee Seungwon delivered one of his low, quick crosses, and Choi cleverly headed it backwards, up and over goalkeeper Kingsley Aniagboso and into the net.

 Korea Republic will now strive to reach the final in back-to-back editions of this competition.

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