Defending champions the Olympic Eagles of Nigeria got off their campaign at the 2019 U-23 Africa Cup of Nations on a dour note following a 1-0 loss to Cote d’Ivoire at the Al Salam Stadium, Cairo, on Saturday evening.

The Flying Eagles will be seeking to qualify for the U-20 Africa Cup of Nations when hostilities commence today at the WAFU Zone B U-20 championship in Benin Republic.

The tournament serves as qualifiers for the U20 Africa Cup of Nations scheduled for Mauritania which in turn will determine Africa’s representatives at the 2021 FIFA U-20 World Cup.

The championship will be fiercely contested by Niger Republic, Nigeria, Togo, Ghana, Benin, Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast.

Nigeria, seven-time CAF U-20 African Nations Cup champions will be competing in group B of the zonal qualifier against arch-rivals, the Black Stars of Ghana – three-time Africa U-20 champions, alongside the Junior Elephants of Cote d’Ivoire.

In the first edition of WAFU Zone B in 2018, Nigeria defeated Ghana to reach the semi-finals but lost 1-2 to Senegal in the final.

The Coach Ladan Bosso lads have played eight preparatory matches and won all during their five weeks of close camping in Abuja.

The former African champions take on Cote d’Ivoire on Sunday in their opening match.

Meanwhile, the Minister of sports, Mr Sunday Dare, has charged the team to make Nigeria proud by winning the competition.

“The Flying Eagles have always made us proud, go there and make Nigerians proud.

“We believe you are young, talented and determined. Your coaches have impacted much on you, go there and come back victorious,” he said.

Bosso has also assured that the team was ready to do the nation proud in spite of being in a tough group.

The WAFU Zone B U-20 Championship is an association football tournament that is contested by national teams of Zone B of the West African Football Union.

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