Sensational Nigeria rounded off their Group F campaign with a 5-0 hammering of Iraq, a result which is good enough to see them finish top of the section as they get set for the Round of 16 here at the FIFA U-17 World Cup in UAE. Four goals in the first half set the tempo for the contest which was never really going to end well for the Iraqis, who now head for home after three straight losses. Mexico and Sweden also go through from the section as second and third-place finishers respectively.
Nigeria hadn’t lost a group-stage game at a U-17 World Cup since way back in 1993, and they weren’t in the mood to start today. Chidiebere Nwakali hit the woodwork after only two minutes, and it was a hint of things to come as the Africans roared into incredible form. Seconds later, they were into the lead when Musa Yahaya was fouled in the area and Musa Muhammed converted form the spot.
The scorer turned provider a minute later, his cross picking out Nwakali who had loads of time and acres of space to put the ball away from close range. The Iraqis were stunned, but they managed a shot in the 13th minute. Captain Mohammed Salam’s free-kick was saved well by Dele Alampasu. The effort was a false dawn, however, and Nigeria were 3-0 up five minutes later. Kelechi Iheanacho, the Golden Eaglets’ danger-man, laid on a fine pass for Taiwo Awoniyi, but it broke loose and fell to the feet of Musa Yahaya, who made no mistake.
Iraq’s coach Muwafaq Adlool, knowing his side needed a win, made a change, bringing on Yasir Ammar for Mustafa Mohammed. The substitution sparked a positive spell for his side, but the next goal came at the other end with the Nigerians in irresistible mood. Yahaya took advantage of a rather grand error by the Iraq keeper Hayder Mohammed, and poked home with ease from six yards out just before the half.
There wasn’t much action in the second half, with the Nigerians taking their foot off the accelerator and Iraq looking defeated and out of ideas. On the stroke of full-time, however, Nigeria scored a fifth when substitute Chigozi Obasi hit home from 20 yards to take the Africans’ goals-for tally in the group stages to 14, one less than Brazil.
Group F has proven one of the strongest here at the UAE finals and it’s only just that three of its combatants – three-time champions Nigeria, Sweden and defending champions Mexico – should go through. Iraq, playing in their first junior finals, can hod their heads high as they head for home.