The seven-time African champions are yet to truly impress in Poland since their opening day 4-0 lashing of Qatar in Tychy, with goals from Maxwell Effiom, Henry Offia, Ayotomiwa Dele-Bashiru and Aliu Salawudeen. A 0-2 loss to USA and 1-1 draw with Ukraine, both in Bielsko-Biala, meant the Flying Eagles had to sneak into the knockout rounds, but the spirit in camp is high following qualification, and the prospect of squaring up to another African team appears to be engendering unspoken steel determination in the playing body.
Nicknamed ‘The Promised Land’, Lodz, however, does not hold much promise for the African army, as this early knockout round confrontation between Nigeria and Senegal, and the fact that South Africa’s Amajita are already back in Johannesburg following group stage elimination, means depleted African presence going forward.
The other African team, Mali, will have to battle Argentina at the same stage on Tuesday evening. Half of the Round of 16 fixtures are all-Confederation clashes. Apart from Nigeria/Senegal, South American representatives, Uruguay and Ecuador are up against each other, as Asians, Japan and South Korea, and European teams, Italy and Poland. The 18,000–capacity Stadion Widzewa, where the Flying Eagles tackle the Junior Elephants of Teranga on Monday evening, from 7:30p.m, will also host the final match on June 15.