Nigeria on Friday became the most successful team in FIFA U-17 World Cup history with a 3-0 win over Mexico at the Mohammad Bin Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
Nigeria beat defending champions Mexico to win the FIFA Under-17 World Cup title for the fourth time and made history by being the first country to win the junior world trophy four times.
By far the most exciting team of the tournament, the Eaglets were always the bookies favourites to emerge champions after a scintillating display that had seen them score 23 goals in six games.
The Golden Eaglets arrived in UAE boasting three title triumphs in the cadet tournament like South American powerhouse Brazil.
Nigeria were champions in 1985, 1993 and 2007, and runners-up in 1987, 2001 and 2009. But an own goal from Erick Aguirre after nine minutes followed by a tap in from Kelechi Iheanacho and Captain Musa Mohamed’s free kick helped Nigeria leapfrog Brazil, who won the competition in 1997, 1999 and 2003.
The Eaglets flew out of the traps with Iheanacho and Taiwo combining well to torment the Mexican defence. The 2011 champions, who lost to their opponents 6-1 in their group match, responded by drifting to the side for counterattacks but Abdullahi Alfa provided the needed cover with Sam Okon and Muhammed nullifying their threats.
Nigeria goalkeeper Dele Alampasu did well to deny Ivan Ochoa when he tipped his goal-bound header over the bar.
The Eaglets took the lead in the ninth minute after the North Americans lost the ball in the Nigerian half.
The ball fell to Awoniyi, who laid for Iheanacho to set up Musa Yahaya. As Yahaya was preparing to shoot, Aguirre attempted to clear but only put the ball into his own net.
Despite being a goal down, the Mexicans continued to threaten with Ochoa’s rampaging runs forcing the Eaglets to retreat to their own half.
Yahaya came close to doubling Nigeria’s lead on several occasions, as he hit the crossbar in the 39th minute, just moments after Awoniyi had struck the side netting after rounding Mexico goalkeeper Raul Gudino to ensure Nigeria hold their slim advantage going into the break.
The Mexicans came out strongly in the second half probing for a quick goal to throw the encounter open but it was Nigerians who doubled their lead when Gudino parried a long range shot into the path of Iheanacho to tap home for his sixth goal of the championship.
With 15 minutes left on the clock, the Mexicans had a great chance to put pressure on Nigeria but Ochoa headed wide.
Nigeria sealed the title when Mohammed weave a free kick round the wall and past Gudino from the edge of the area with just nine minutes left to play.
Earlier in the day Sweden defeated Argentina 4-1 to win the third-place. Valmir Berisha scored a hat-trick to win the Golden Boot with seven goals in the championship.
Iheanacho was the second highest scorer with six goals. Although Brazil’s Boschiilia also scored six goals, Iheanacho was rated due to his seven assists against the Brazilan’s three.
Iheanacho was voted the Most Valuable Player of the tournament, winning the Golden Ball for his efforts. Brazil’s Nathan was voted second followed by Mexico’s Ivan Ochoa in the third place.
Alampasu won the Golden Glove award. Nigeria also won the Fair Play Award. The Eaglets were the best attacking side in the competition after scoring 26 goals. Brazil were second with 19 followed by Sweden with 15. New Zealand did not score a single in the tournament.
Meanwhile, President Goodluck Jonathan will on Sunday (tomorrow) host a grand reception for the victorious Golden Eaglets at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
This was contained in the President’s congratulatory message to the Golden Eaglets on their 3-0 triumph over Mexico in the final match of the 2013 FIFA Under-17 World Soccer Championship played on Friday in Abu Dhabi.
According to the statement by presidential spokesman, Reuben Abati, the reception is in fulfillment of the President’s promise of a heroes’ welcome for the players.
“In fulfillment of his promise of a heroes’ welcome for the triumphant Golden Eaglets on their return home, President Jonathan will host a grand reception for the team at the Banquet Hall of the State House at 1900 Hours on Sunday, November 10, 2013 in appreciation of the great honour and glory they have brought to their fatherland,” the statement read.
Jonathan, on behalf of himself, the Federal Government and all Nigerians, congratulated the players on their victory for an unprecedented fourth time which he described as a glorious achievement.
He commended the young Eaglets for “the exemplary commitment, dedication, resilience, determination, patriotism and unity of purpose they displayed through-out the tournament to make Nigeria the World’s Under-17 Football Champion once again.”
The President also urged the leadership of the Nigerian Football Federation to strive to ensure that the world-conquering Eaglets, who have shown such immense potentials as youngsters, are properly nurtured, trained and developed to represent the nation at higher levels in future international football competitions.
He wished the Golden Eaglets and their coaches a safe journey home and looks forward to receiving them in Abuja on Sunday. Also, Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State has congratulated the team for winning the cup for a record fourth time.
Oshiomhole in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Peter Okhiria,
said, “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.”
More reactions trailed the victory of Nigeria’s Golden Eaglets at the just-concluded FIFA Under-17 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates.
A former coach of Nigeria Super Eagles, the country’s most senior football team, Adegboye Onigbinde, described the victory as “well deserved.”
The Eaglets beat El Tri of Mexico in the final of the 15th edition of the tournament to win the trophy.
Onigbinde said Nigeria started well at the competition and ended in a similar fashion.
“It’s a good one for Nigeria because they started very well and ended very well. The end justifies the means. Results are the ways to measure success so I’m happy for them because it’s a well-deserved victory. There are no controversies over all the matches they played because they own all of them clearly.”
The former Nigeria coach also called on the government to invest more in developing sports talents.
He said, “Let’s fish out sports talents and develop them; this is what I’ve been advocating for years.”
In a related development, the former Governor of Abia State, Dr. Orji Kalu, has congratulated the Golden Eaglets on their victory at the world championship, beating 23 other teams to the cup.
According to a statement signed by his Special Adviser, Oyekunle Oyewumi, Kalu said the team made Nigeria proud by winning the title and becoming the first team to do so four times.
The statement read in part, “In the midst of so much gloom in the country, it is heartwarming that the boys and their Coach, Manu Garba, did not lose focus but concentrated on the task before them to make the country proud.
“The victory is even sweeter when considered against the backdrop that the boys are certified to be truly under-17 and can conveniently graduate into the senior teams in the years ahead.”