Nigeria’s Flying Eagles opened their FIFA Under 20 World Cup (U20WC) campaign with a come-from-behind 2-1 win over the Dominican Republic on Sunday at the Estadio Malvinas Argentinas.
The Nigerian U20s were the overwhelming favourites to pick all three points against the Dominicans, making their first appearance at a major football tournament and although they had to do it the hard way, the West Africans found a way to win in the end.
Ladan Bosso’s boys were stunned in the 21st minute after the Dominicans were awarded a penalty following a Video Assistant Referee (VAR) check on defender Benjamin Frederick’s tackle inside the box.
The spot kick was dispatched by Edison Alexander Azcona Velez as the CONCACAF representatives scored their first ever goal in a FIFA tournament.
Nigeria had been the better side before then and it was not a surprise to see the lead last for just eight minutes. Nigeria found an equaliser in fortuitous circumstances as Guillermo De Pena headed a long throw-in into his own net.
In spite of a seeming dominance by the Eagles, scores remained level until after the hour mark when the naive Dominicans imploded once again.
This time, Nigerian midfielder Samson Lawal was at the right place and at the right time to punish an undercooked back pass and produce a one-time finish with nineteen minutes left on the clock.
A tale of comebacks in today's first round of games ⚡️#U20WC— FIFA World Cup (@FIFAWorldCup) May 21, 2023
It turned out to be Lawal’s last touch of the game as he made way for Haliru Sarki who provided more spark in the Nigerian attack to keep their opponents defence busy for the rest of the game.
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Nigeria will next face Italy in their second group game at the same venue on Wednesday.