Ikouwem’s Return Can’t Save U20s Against Saudi Arabia

The return of Flying Eagles’ captain, Ikouwem Udoh Utin to the squad for their international friendly against Saudi Arabia could not make the desired effect, as Paul Aigbogun’s side lost 2-1 to their fellow-FIFA U-20 World Cup-bound opponents.

Utin had been away from Aigbogun’s preparation camp in Germany to seal a transfer deal at Maccabi Haifa of Israel, but returned just in time for their friendly in Austria, only to lead the squad into a shock defeat.

Nigeria’s line-up for Sunday’s game had Detan Ogundare, Mike Zaruma, Utin, Igor Agoh, Val Ozonwofor, Rabiu Mohammed, Maxwell Effiom, Durugbor Pascal, Tijani Mohammed, Ernest Chidiebere and Anikeme Asuquo, but the squad fell short against the 1989 Youth Mundial hosts.

Manchester City youth team brothers, Tom and Fisayo Dele-Bashiru as well as Watford’s Jayden Bennetts were omitted from the Flying Eagles’ squad, while Kogi United’s Ogundare was in goal ahead of Olawale Oremade, with Utin joining Zaruma, Ozornwafor, and Agoh in defence, after missing their first friendly against SC Freiburg of Germany.

Rabiu, Effiom, Asuquo and Chidiebere lined out in midfield, as Tijani and Pascal paired in attack, with Peter Eletu. Jamil Muhammed and Henry Offia among 11 substitutes on the bench.

The match came few hours after Utin passed his medicals with Maccabi Haifa, but his representative decided to keep the final contract signing on hold until after the upcoming Youth Mundial in Poland.

Utin trained once with Yakubu Aiyegbeni’s former club, before going for the medicals, but he did not sign the deal on the instructions of his agent, who is holding out for the player’s club to give their consent.

Officials at Enyimba of Aba are said to be going through details of the deal, from which they expect to get more than €250,000 once Utin signs.

However, The Peoples’ Elephant have stated that they will only approve Utin’s transfer once they confirm that his salary package is conducive and after receiving a first installment of the transfer fee from Maccabi.

Once all terms and conditions are ironed out, Utin will put pen to paper on a five-year-deal, but that would only be after Enyimba’s lawyers run a thorough eye over contents of the deal.

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