Daily Trust (Abuja)

Nigeria: Flying Eagles Optimistic of 2013 WC Ticket

Defending African champions, Nigeria have expressed confidence they will scale past their first round group to qualify for the 2013 FIFA U20 World Cup.

The Flying Eagles have been drawn against Mali and debutantes Gabon and DR Congo at the 2013 African Youth Championship to be hosted by Algeria from March 16 to 30.

The Nigeria U20s eliminated Mali in the semi-finals of the 2011 AYC in South Africa on their way to emerging as champions at the expense of Cameroon.

Both Gabon and DR Congo will only be making their debuts at the tournament proper in Algeria.

Flying Eagles assistant coach, Yakubu Maidajin described Sunday's draw in Cairo as a favourable one, while maintaining this only means the team have to work a lot harder.

"It's a favourable draw and we ought to qualify from this group," he said.

"A team like Ghana would have proved a difficult opponent but good enough we are not drawn against them in the group stage.

"All the same, if we work hard this tournament would be a lot easier than when we won it last year because the teams in our group are most likely to have too much respect for us."

Flying Eagles goalkeeper coach, Alloy Agu said the country's chances of going past the first round are very bright.

"It's an interesting draw and our chances are very bright, but we cannot afford to underrate any of the teams especially Gabon and DR Congo who have been doing very well lately," said Agu, who featured at the 1985 U20 World Cup in the former Soviet Union.

"We will rise to the occasion so as to meet our targets, which is first to qualify for the World Cup and then successfully retain our championship."

The team's joint leading scorer in the qualifying tournament with three goals Alhaji Gero equally expressed confidence Nigeria will advance to the World Cup to be hosted by Turkey in June.

"We are in a good group but we still have to go out there, fight and prove we are the champions," the big Enugu Rangers striker said.

"We will qualify for the World Cup to begin with."

The Flying Eagles eliminated Tanzania and South Africa to qualify for the 2013 AYC.

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