After representing Nigeria at the Under-20 World Cup, Nnamdi Ofoborh is ready to return with the Cherries and build on his newfound experience.
The Flying Eagles reached the second round in Poland, getting through the group stage before bowing out with a narrow 2-1 loss to Senegal.
Ofoborh started two of the four games at the tournament and gave feedback to afcb.co.uk on what he took from the challenge: “I’ve learned about being at a tournament where you’re playing for places so in every training session you’ve got to work as hard as you can, no matter how tired you are.”
“Coming back with the Cherries, I am one of the youngest there, where I was one of the most experienced in the Nigeria team. It’s still about learning but also I have to have more confidence, I’ve played on a bigger stage now so I have to show the coaches and the players that I can play on an even bigger stage in the Premier League.”
The 19-year-old came off the bench in the opening 4-0 win over Qatar then was unused in the 2-1 loss to USA, but remained patient and was rewarded with a start in the final group stage.
“The team was a strong unit,” said Ofoborh, speaking of breaking into the starting 11. “Even though some people were upset when they weren’t starting at the same time we were all happy for our team-mates who were.
“With me it was about staying positive because I knew eventually I would get my chance, so I was being as supportive as I could. Especially, with a 4-0 win in our first game against Qatar, that’s how we wanted to start.
“Then the USA game wasn’t that great, I felt that if I’d played the result could have been different. I was staying focused then when I got my call for the final group stage I was ready.”
And the midfielder needed to be ready, soon being handed a starting berth for the game against group leaders Ukraine – with at least a point needed for the Flying Eagles to progress to the knockout stages.
“There was a massive crowd and Nigeria’s a big footballing country so there was a lot of pressure coming from back home, with a lot of comments on social media. There were nerves before the game, even when I walked out the tunnel I was still a bit nervous,” he said.
“The Senegal game was even bigger, probably the biggest game of my career. It ended in a loss but the fans were insane – I couldn’t even hear my team-mates. It was a bit a surreal, obviously not ending the way we wanted it to with a few tears and me getting very upset.
“At the same time it’s been the biggest experience and the proudest moment of my career so far.
Despite a knockout appearance on the world stage, Ofoborh says he thinks the squad could have achieved even more during their time in Poland.
“Personally, I think we could have done even better,” he said. “A lot of big names have been knocked out of the tournament early, France, Argentina and Portugal, the three favourites, so I think if we had got past Senegal we could have gone all the way.
“There were a few of us in the squad who knew what we were capable of and how dangerous we could have been. Some people think we did alright but I thought we could have won it.”