Nigeria U-20 coach Manu Garba says his side are not yet ready for this year’s African Youth Championship, despite coasting to a 2-0 win over 2-time African champions Enyimba International FC on Day 1 of the Super 4.
The Flying Eagles have been drawn alongside hosts Senegal, Congo and Côte d’Ivoire in Group A of the AYC finals scheduled to start March 8 through 22.
Nigeria, bronze medalists in the previous edition, will look to progress into the last-4 of the tournament so as to ensure qualification for the 2015 Fifa U-20 World Cup billed for New Zealand between May 30 and June 20.
Speaking after his side’s win over Caf Champions League-bound Enyimbaat the Abuja National Stadium on Saturday evening, Garba rued several wasted chances by his ward.
“This game was a good test for my team because we played against a very experienced side in Enyimba,” Manu told reporters at the post-game media briefing.
“Flying Eagles looked fitter than Enyimba and it showed in our huge possession. They were an experienced side but we were better on the ball.”
Goals from captain Musa Muhammed (penalty) and substitute Musa Yahaya helped ten-man Eagles defeat the reigning Federation Cup holders, as Prince Aggreh received his marching order after a second booking in the 57th minute.
Sweden-based striker Taiwo Awoniyi was a thorn in Pillars’ defence but failed to register a goal and coach Manu admits there is much work to be done before the AYC opening game against Senegal on March 8.
“I have seen some of the lapses especially in goal scoring,” Manu said. “We missed a lot of scoring chances and that is part of the corrections we would be making for the team.”
“We play a brand of football called total football which requires us to make swift retreat as soon as we lose the ball. But more importantly, we are using this game to prepare for Senegal and I can say right now, we are not ready”
He added: “Like I said before, this tournament is a plus to my team because we are using it to fine tune our squad.
“You know that we would be going to Gambia for conditioning, it is by then that we would know what our team would be like but right now we don’t have a team.”
Enyimba assistant coach Friday Christopher conceived the Eagles were a fitter team.
“The Flying Eagles are a good side and they ran rings around us because they were very fit. I think they will do well,” Christopher said.
“We are happy that we played against a team that is fit because we know our squad is still rusty. We were more experienced but our experience didn’t count today because we played a very good side. We have seen the mistakes of our team and will work on it before our next game.”