Nigeria continued their fine goal scoring form by beating Mexico 4-2 in the semifinals of the Under-17 World Cup in Chile on Thursday.
The Super Eaglets reached their second straight final after their 2013 triumph, where they will face Mali, who defeated Belgium 3-1 earlier in the day.
Kevin Magana opened the scoring for Mexico in the seventh minute by controlling a loose ball in the box and firing home at the near post.
But Nigeria responded with two goals to take the lead before half-time.
Kelechi Nwakali equalised with a curling free kick in the 35th minute, and Orji Okwonkwo put them ahead with a shot off the underside of the crossbar.
Mexico equalised after the break when Diego Cortes produced one of the goals of the tournament with a 50-yard solo run, evading five defenders before poking home Mexico’s second.
But it wasn’t long before Nigeria were ahead again through Osinachi Ebere’s strong right-footed shot, and Victor Osimhen made it a comfortable finish with a late penalty.
Osimhen’s ninth goal of the tournament tied the Under-17 World Cup record.
It will be an all-African final after Mali advanced by seeing off Belgium.
In theory, the Under-17 World Cup is football’s crystal ball. It is supposed to give a glimpse into the game’s future. But if that was really the case, Nigeria should have won a World Cup, or at least made it to the semifinals by now.
The Golden Eaglets are the best-performing nation at under-17 level, with four titles and three runners-up medals to their names
It would be fantastic if we got this fifth under 17 world cup but It would be even better, though, if the players could translate success at this tournament to something substantial later on, especially for Nigeria. The Super Eagles have been threatening higher honours for more than two decades, since they reached the knockout stages of the 1994 World Cup, but have not followed through. They have won an African Nations’ Championship since but faded on the global stage and will hope the likes of 16-year-old Victor Osimhen will help turn that around.
Whatever happens, Nigerians will hope Osimhen does not go the same way as his countryman Macauley Chrisantus, who was the top scorer in the 2007 Under-17 World Cup. He scored seven goals and was rewarded with a contract at Hamburg but never made it as big as his U-17 reputation suggested he would. He was loaned to a second-division club, Karlsruher SC, moved to the Turkish Super Lig and currently plays for AEK Athens but has never received a senior national call-up.
We hope that this time around, with this crop of players,the future of the country’s game could be bright.
But how do we translate our dominance at the youth levels to improvement at the senior levels?