Spectators at the Public Viewing Center Obiaruku, Ukwuani Local Govt Area, Delta State
For the fourth time of asking on Asian soil, the Golden Eaglets yesterday sealed their place in FIFA U-17 World Cup history when they trashed Mexico 3-0 in the final of UAE 2013, to bring their title haul at this level of youth football to four.
They emerged the top scoring team of the tournament with 26 goals, a record that speaks volume of the attacking instincts of this great team, tipped to rule the world in the future.
In an explosive and interesting match decided at the beautiful Mohamed Bin Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi, the Eaglets, who had scored 23 goals in six previous matches before last night’s encounter, came into the match on a cautious note, allowing the Mexicans to dictate the initiative but later started to dictate the pace with their fluid attacking football that has entrapped fans here.
Powered in the midfield by five-goal hero Kelechi Iheanacho, who distinguished himself as a classy player at this tournament, with his inch-perfect crosses, the Eaglets’ first real chance of troubling Mexican goalkeeper Raul Gudino came in the 4th minute when Musa Yayaha, another five-goal star, failed to connect properly with his head. The pass was provided by Iheanacho, whose control of the ball has made people to start comparing him to the likes of Sunday Oliseh and Austin Okocha, both former captains of the Super Eagles.
Eaglets finally found the breakthrough in the 9th minute when Musa Yayaha’s shot was deflected in by Mexico’s Erick Aguirre. The pass was once again provided by Iheanacho, a thorn in the flesh of the El Tri, who released a through pass to Yayaha from a counter-attack move launched by the Nigerians, who had moment earlier denied Mexico’s star striker Ivan Ochoa from netting the opener.
Ochoa, who had scored a brace in the 3-0 semifinal defeat of Argentina had found space in the air, beating off the central defensive pair of Zaharadeen Bello and Abubakar Aliyu but goalkeeper Dele Alampasu came good with a great save as he tipped the ball over for a corner, which the Mexicans wasted and Nigeria went ahead to launch a counter-attack that produced the first goal.
But the goal awakened Mexico, winners of the last edition hosted by them in 2011 as they searched for the equalizer. Prodded on by Coach Raul Gutierez from the torch-line, Mexico committed more men in the attack as they laid ambush for the Eaglets, who were just too good in the defence as in attack.
Captain Ulises Rivas was running the strings for the Mexicans in the midfield but the Nigerian setup was in no mood to allow their foes to get level.
Forward Taiwo Awoniyi should have edged Eaglets two goals up but hit the side of the net after beating goalkeeper Gudino on 38 minutes. Yayaha, few seconds later hit the upright as the Eaglets went on rampage. It was turning out to be a night of near-misses and close-shaves as the El Tri went into pannick mode.
They had been thrashed 6-1 the last time both teams met in Al Ain on October 19, in a Group F opener and here again, were being pushed to the brink by a turbo-charged Eaglets, as promised by Coach Manu Garba, who continued prancing on the touchline, dishing out useful instructions to his marauding Eaglets.
The fans, comprised mostly of Nigerians living in Dubai and other cities in the United Arab Emirates, were having a good time as centre referee from Scotland, Craig Thomson blew the final whistle to end the first entertaining first half.
While Coach Gutierez made a change, taking off the ineffective Luis Hernandez for Erich Hernandez, Nigerian came into the second half with same players bustling with greater hunger for goals, launching attack after attack, containing the Mexicans to their half, in search of the second goal.
The West Africans, winners of the Cup thrice in China 1985, Japan 1993 and South Korea 2007 did not have to wait too long for the second of the night as maverick right-full back and inspirational captain Musa Mohamed unleashed a thunderous shot which goalkeeper Gudino parried into the lurking foot of Iheanacho, who was scoring his sixth goal of the tournament. His first four goals came in the first meeting with Mexico on October 19.
In what will easily go down as the best Eaglets side in some years to come, the Coach Garba-tinkered side did not rest on their oars as they continued weaving their charm-offensive brand of modern-day football on the spell-bound crowd.
It was like a dream. But no, it was not. It must have been scripted from the start, that this team were destined for greatness as Coach Garba had always stated at every conference he had with the media.
This class of 2013, comprising striker cum midfielder Kelechi Iheanacho, forward Taiwo Awoniyi, right-back and captain Musa Mohamed, goalkeeper DeleAlampasu, left-back Samuel Okon, central defender Aliyu Abubakar, midfileder Abdulkadir Alfa, midfielder Musa Yahaya, central defender and midfielder Akinjide Idowu and defender Zaharadden Bello reel of sheer quality.
They never took their feet off the pedal, showing the Mexicans that they were the best team of the tournament. And they soon compounded the woes of El Tri nine minutes from regulation time when captain Mohamed unleashed a powerful shot to net Nigeria’s third goal of the night. It was also the goal third of the defender in this tournament, a fact that further accentuated the fact that every player on the Nigerian team can score.
His jubilation was re-echoed by ecstatic Nigerians fans, who were now in seventh heaven, singing and dancing in wild acclamation of this great victory in the UAE. Mexico had nothing to offer in terms of finding the net as the Eaglets rant out with a 3-0 win here to seal their place in FIFA U-17 World Cup folklore.
Anyone in UAE who had the pleasure to see the Golden Eaglets will tell you that this Nigerian team were the best on offer. Even a few of the Mexican fans were mumbling “yes, yes, yes” when the final whistle went on Nigeria’s glorious campaign here in UAE.
It’s a centenary gift—FCT Minister
MINISTER of the Federal Capital Territory Administration, FCTA, Senator Bala Mohammed yesterday hailed the Golden Eaglets for winning the FIFA-Under 17 world cup for a record fourth time.
In a statements signed by his Special Assistant, Media, Nosike Ogbuenyi, he said that the Minister who is the Organising Committee for the Nigerian Centenary Grand Finale described the victory as a worthy centenary gift for President Goodluck Jonathan and all Nigerians indeed.
The FCT minister who noted that the Eaglets’ victory has once more demonstrated that with unity and common resolve, Nigeria can rule the world not only in sports, but in economic and industrial advancement. He however called for increased patriotism and brotherly love among all Nigerians, adding that the country’s geographical and ethno-religious diversity should be a source of strength and not weakness.
Tambuwal, Oshiomhole congratulate Eaglets
Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, and Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State yesterday congratulated Nigerians over the victory of the Golden Eaglets.
In a separate statements by their Media aides, the Hon Tambuwal and Governor Oshiomhole described the victory as triumph of tenacity and hard work.
The Special Adviser on Media and Public Affairs to the Speaker, Malam Imam Imam, Tambuwal described the victory as triumph of tenacity and hard work.
He said the young boys have now taught the world the real essence of team work, adding that with all hands working together, all challenges would be surmounted.
Akinjide Idowu (C) of Nigeria and his team-mates celebrate their victory with the trophy during the FIFA World Cup UAE 2013 Final between Nigeria and Mexico at Mohamed Bin Zayed Stadium on November 8, 2013 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo FIFA)
While congratulating the players and their handlers, led by coach Garba Manu, for a job well done, Tambuwal said the House of Representatives will continue to play a leading role in efforts to take sports to greater heights in the country.
According to a statement signed by the Chief Press Secretary to the Comrade Governor, Mr Peter Okhiria, “I heartily congratulate the Eaglets for doing Nigerians proud in far-away United Arab Emirates. The Eaglets displayed the can-do spirit of the Nigerian; the will to excel even in the face of excruciating challenges.
“The Boys represent a new generation of Nigerians whose faith in the country remain unwavering as they forged a formidable team to win the coveted trophy despite coming from different ethnic and religious backgrounds.
“I urge the authorities of the Nigerian Football Federation to keep this talented team together as the boys have the potential of even bringing greater honour to the country.
“The government and good people of Edo State give kudos to the Golden Eaglets for this great feat.”