Nigeria’s Golden Eaglets this morning in Chile won the FIFA U-17 World Cup, defeating fellow West Africans from Mali.
Nigeria had missed a fourth minute penalty kick after a Malian handled the ball in the 18 yard box. Efforts of the Nigerian lads to convert a rebound was aborted by vigilant Malians.
The African champions who proved their worth continued to mount pressure on the Nigerian side but the left wing pressures did not yield any result.
Midway in the first half, the match turned physical. The Nigerians with six 16 year-olds starting the match were the youngest in Chile but tactical.
As at 36 minutes into the match, Nigerians had committed 10 fouls, while their West African brothers have committed only six. Mali has been absence from the tournament for 14 years but returning to sparkle into the finals proved they were in for business.
Nigerians appeared in the final Sunday night for the eighth time, losing each time they conceded the first goal of the match. Therefore, the four-time winners did not leave anything to chance in the Chilean final.
The Malian goalkeeper who turned out the best of the tournament wasn’t on holidays as he made great saves, denying firing Nigerians’ attempts.
The Malian goalkeeper however caved in when Victor Osimhen broke the record; scoring his 10th goal of the tournament which made him the all-time highest goal scorer of the category.
Three minutes after, Funso Bamgboye made it double for Nigeria, putting the world champions on a more comfortable position.
The Emmanuel Amuneke-tutored boys did not seem to be defending their two ‘golden goals,’ but pushing the frontiers and scheming for more goals which the Malian defence, led by brave goalkeeper refused.
The match ended in favour of the Golden Eaglets who were champions two years before at the United Arab Emirates. Thus, for the second time in the history if the tournament, it was again two West African brothers fighting it out far away from home. The first time was in Japan, 22 years ago, when Nigeria defeated another West African, Ghana, in Japan.
On records, before the 2015 final match, only Brazil had won the tournament back to back. The South Americans who won it in 1997, returned to win again in 1999. Meanwhile, the feat has been equaled today by the Nigerian lads who the last edition. In all, Nigeria has won the FIFA U-17 World Cup five times, a feat no other country has achieved.
The Malians had come from a goal down to defeat Belgium at the semi-final stage. Same Belgium, finished with the bronze medal in Chile.
Elated Nigerians after the victory celebration, despite the ecstasy, returned on their kneels in company of their officials, to appreciate God in prayers and thanksgiving for a successful outing in South America.
- Story by Dayo Emmanuel