flying eagles

On Saturday, May 20, the 21st edition of the FIFA U-20 World Cup will kick-off in South Korea. Sadly, two-time losing finalists the Flying Eagles of Nigeria, will not be there.


Ahead of this year’s tournament,’s JAMES AGBEREBI reviews how the Flying Eagles failed to qualify for nine previous finals…






The Flying Eagles first ever absence at the FIFA U-20 World Cup was the maiden edition in 1977 hosted by Tunisia as they did not enter for the qualifiers.


The four teams that were involved in the qualifiers were Morocco, Egypt, Guinea and Cote d’Ivore in a home and away format.


And after the conclusion of the qualifiers, Morocco and Cote d’Ivoire joined hosts Tunisia as Africa’s first ever representatives at the FIFA U-20 World Cup.






After missing out in the inaugural edition, the Flying Eagles eventually took part in the qualifiers for the 1979 U-20 World Cup in Japan.


Just like in the 1977 qualifying format which was home and away, the Flying Eagles had a walkover against Gambia in the first round of the qualifiers and eliminated Cameroon 3-1 on aggregate in the second round.


But it was in the third round that the Nigerian youngsters crashed out after losing 2-1 on aggregate to Guinea.


Guinea and Algeria went on to represent Africa at the second edition of the U-20 World Cup in Japan.  







The Flying Eagles were in the race again in the qualifiers for the FIFA U-20 World Cup which was held in Australia in 1981.


The first round draw pitted the Flying Eagles against Cote d’Ivoire but the Nigerians advanced into the second round without kicking a ball as they were awarded a walkover over the Ivorians.


Against Tunisia in the second round, the Flying Eagles prevailed 5-4 on aggregate.


But in the third round against Cameroon, they lost out 4-2 on aggregate.


Following their ouster of the Flying Eagles, Cameroon and Egypt picked Africa’s two tickets for the 1981 U-20 World Cup. 







Following the heartbreaks of not qualifying for the first three editions of the U-20 World Cup, the Flying Eagles qualified for four straight editions (1983, 1985, 1987, 1989).


But in 1989 Nigeria’s youth national teams – Flying Eagles and Golden Eaglets – were banned by FIFA for fielding over-age players in FIFA-organised youth tournaments, which meant the Flying Eagles missed out of the 1991 FIFA U-20 World Cup.


The ban was as result of the birth dates of three players at the 1988 Seoul Olympics which were different from the ones used by those players at previous tournaments. 


The resulting ban lasted for two years (1990 to 1991) and Nigeria was also stripped of its right to host the 1991 FIFA World Youth Championship which was awarded to Portugal.


And in the first ever U-20 Africa Cup of Nations hosted by Egypt (after CAF switched from the home and away qualifying format) the Junior Pharaohs emerged champions and together with beaten finalists Cote d’Ivoire were in Portugal for the World Cup.








After serving the two-year ban, the Flying Eagles returned to the U-20 World Cup qualifier in the race for the 1993 FIFA U-20 World Cup hosted by Australia.


The Flying Eagles qualified for the 1993 U-20 AFCON in Mauritius after their play-off opponent Congo Brazzaville were disqualified.


Unfortunately in the tournament proper, Nigeria, parading the likes of Austin Okocha and Tijani Babangida and with Nwankwo Kanu in the squad, crashed out in Group A that had Ghana, Cameroon and hosts Mauritius.  


Africa’s two representatives were Ghana and Cameroon at the 1993 U-20 World Cup with Ghana reaching the final where they lost 2-1 to Brazil.







The 1995 U-20 World Cup was originally going to be held in Nigeria. But due to a meningitis outbreak, Nigeria withdrew from hosting duties and FIFA relocated the event to Qatar.


Prior to the withdrawal of the 1995 U-20 World Cup, Nigeria hosted the 1995 CAF U-20 AFCON where they finished third.


Cameroon won the 1995 U-20 AFCON and hoisted Africa’s flag alongside Burundi in Qatar.







The Flying Eagles’ bid to put the disappointment of the 1995 U-20 World Cup behind them took another blow as they were knocked out of the race for the 1997 U-20 World Cup in Malaysia by Sudan.


In the second round, the Flying Eagles eliminated Chad 6-3 on aggregate and were drawn against Sudan in the play-off for a place in the 1997 U-20 AFCON in Morocco.


In the first leg at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium in Enugu, the Flying Eagles came from a goal down to win 2-1.


But in the second leg, the Flying Eagles lost 1-0 to crash out on the away goals rule.


And at the 1997 U-20 World Cup, for the first time Africa had four representatives: Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Morocco and South Africa.






During the qualifiers for the 2001 CAF U-20 AFCON in Ethiopia, the Flying Eagles took out Sudan 6-3 on aggregate in the first round qualifiers before beating Mozambique 5-1 on aggregate in the play-off.


But it was a disastrous outing for the Flying Eagles in Ethiopia as they crashed out in a group that had Ghana, Mali and Angola, hence missing out from qualifying for the 2001 U-20 World Cup.


After drawing 0-0 against Mali in their first game, the Flying Eagles lost 4-1 to Ghana in their second game before losing 2-0 to Angola in their final group game.


The Flying Eagles’ disappointing performance in Ethiopia meant they missed the chance to be at the 2001 U-20 World Cup.


Angola, Ghana, Ethiopia and Egypt represented Africa at the 2001 U-20 World Cup with Ghana reaching the final only to lose 3-0 to hosts Argentina.







In the qualifiers for the 2003 CAF U-20 AFCON in Burkina Faso, the Flying thrashed Somalia 6-0 on aggregate in the first round.


But in the play-off against Morocco, Nigeria lost 3-2 on aggregate. The Flying Eagles lost the first leg 2-1 at home before playing 1-1 away in the reverse fixture.


The failure of the Flying Eagles to qualify for the 2003 CAF U-20 AFCON in Burkina Faso cost them a place at the 2003 U-20 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates.


Africa’s representatives in the UAE were Egypt, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire and Mali.

The post NO FLYING EAGLES, NO PARTY: How Nigeria Missed Nine U-20 World Cups appeared first on Complete Sports Nigeria.

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