Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Youth Football: Flying Eagles to Super Eagles. . . .

A few days ago, we provided data showing number of players who progress from Nigeria's U17 to the full national team -- Super Eagles. In this piece, we use similar methods to show the progression from U20 Flying Eagles to the Super Eagles. As should be expected, the results are better from the U20 level to the full national team.

Key to Understanding the Method and Results
Note that only U20 squads that participated at the FIFA World Youth Cup (WYC) have been used for this analysis. In essence, this covers 10 squads from 1983 until 2013. With the 2013 squad, we do not conduct all analyses because this squad is recent and more of its players are expected to do more at the Super Eagles level in a few years to come.

New data provided in this piece compares the U17 and U20 squads in terms of average number of players from each squad that progress to the Super Eagles. This is provided in Figure 1. While just about four (4) players from a U17 squad are likely to play a game  at the Super Eagles level, there will be as many as eight (8) players per squad that will do the same from a U20 squad. Approximately two players from each U17 squad may make it to at least 10 games at the most senior level compared to about three players from the U20 level.

Data From U20 Squads
Table 1 shows data from the ten U20 squads that Nigeria used in previous World Youth Cups. Nigeria has played in two championship games (1989 and 2005) of the WYC but impact at the senior national team level for players who played in the 1989 and 2005 tournaments are different. Players from the 2005 tournament had perhaps the most impact on the senior national team than any other U20 squad. The 1989 squad had less impact than should be expected. Only one player from that squad -- Mutiu Adepoju -- went on to appear in a large number of games at the most senior level (52). The 1985 squad, which reached the semi final of the WYC, had the most players to appear in at least one Super Eagles game and also had players who went on to impact the Super Eagles more than the 1989 silver winning squad. The least impactful was the 2009 squad which has only one player to appear in more than 10 games for the Super Eagles (Gbolahan Salami/12 games).

Table 2 shows players who rank in the Top Ten of U20 players with most appearances at the Super Eagles level. Here, we see that the squads of 1983, 2005, and 2007 have two players each. The surprise is the 2007 squad, which reached the WYC quarter finals in Canada. Though the 1983 squad was eliminated at the group stage in Mexico, there was a deliberate policy under Coach Adegboye Onigbinde to build a new Super Eagles using players from that U20 squad which accounts for how well the players show up in the data here. By building the team around several youngsters, Coach Onigbinde was able to reach the Cup of Africa Nations (CAN) finals in 1984. That policy has not been used since.

The 2015 U20 Team
Going by the data, it is safe to predict that about eight (8) players from Nigeria's U20 squad to the 2015 World Youth Cup will eventually play at least a game for the Super Eagles. In fact, more could end up playing for the Super Eagles if the squad does very well in the WYC. Already, two members of the squad -- Moses Simon and Kingsley Sokari -- have achieved that feat before the start of the WYC. Others are expected to follow after the WYC. If Nigeria is to re-adopt the policy used when Onigbinde was national coach, then one should expect perhaps over 10 players from the 2015 WYC make it to the full national team in the near future.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Nigeria's Youth Football: From Golden Eaglets to Super Eagles. . . .

Nigeria has dominated world youth football over the years, winning more titles than any other country at the U17 level. In the next few months, Nigeria will again defend its U17 title in Chile and its U20 team (made up of former world conquering U17 players) will hope to become the first Nigerian team to win the World U20 title.

However, winning the U17 or U20 titles is not the ultimate goal. The ultimate goal is to have the players develop and contribute at the Super Eagles level and dominate the world at the zenith of soccer. That is yet to happen. In this piece, we investigate how these youth players, specifically from the U17 level where Nigeria has been so dominant, impact the full national team A "Super Eagles."

We investigate each year that Nigeria has played at the U17 World Championship. The goal is to identify the number of players from each of those teams that move on to play for the Super Eagles. We also measure impact by enumerating how many players from each team that have played at least 10, 20, 30, or 40+ games at the Super Eagles level.

On Table 1, we note that the 1989 team to the Scotland U17 World Cup produced the most players to appear for the Super Eagles. That is a total of 8 players but only two went on to play for more than 20 games. If you recall, that team did not win a medal in Scotland and it had an unceremonious exit, losing to Saudi Arabia in the quarter finals.

In terms of impact at the Super Eagles level, the 1993 team is above the rest of the other squads. It not only produced Nwankwo Kanu but it had three players appear in at least 20 games each for the Super Eagles. The other squad to produce a player with at least 40 games is the 2003 team that failed at the group stage. That team had Mikel Obi who has now played 70 games for Nigeria.

Table 2 shows the top 10 players from previous U17 squads who went on to appear the most at the Super Eagles level. The 1993 squad alone has four of those players. The 1989 has three. The 2003and 2009 squads have two each.  The World Cup winning 1985 and 2007 teams and the teams that placed second at the U17 World Cups of 1987 and 2001 had none!

2013 Squad
Of course, much has been said about the current U17 champion team -- the 2013 squad that includes Kelechi Iheanacho, Isaac Success, and Taiwo Awoniyi. The fact is their data for this investigation shows zero only because their impact at the Super Eagles level is expected in the future and not the present. Several of them will eventually star at the Super Eagles level. But will that impact surpass that of the 1993 squad? It seems unlikely to have five players from that squad to play at least 10 games for the Super Eagles. However, it is likely that the 2013 squad will do better that the U17 World Cup winning teams of 1985 and 2007. One expects Iheanacho, Success, Awoniyi, Yahaya, and Musa Mohammed to get a chance at the Super Eagles level but it is unlikely that all five will make it to ten appearances each.