The Nigeria U17 team, the Golden Eaglets, have successfully defended their FIFA U17 World Cup title after recording a 2-0 victory over their West African foes, Mali, in the early hours of Monday.
After a largely even first half contest in which Nigeria missed a penalty inside the first four minutes, Golden Eaglets gangling striker, Victor Osimhen, broke the deadlock in the 56th minute; and three minutes later Nigeria were two goals up as Funsho Bamgboye increased the tally.
The delocious goal by Osimhen was his 10th goal of the tournament which makes him the record holder of the most goals scored by an individual at one single FIFA U17 World Cup tournament.
Before the Mali clash, The Golden Eaglets had recorded good results at the Estadio Sausalito in Vina del Mar where they crushed Chile 5-1 in their second group phase match, annihilated Australia 6-0 in the second round, and battered Brazil 3-0 in the quarter final.
The venue proved a lucky ground as Nigeria triumphed over Mali though we did have some early scares.
The successful defence recorded by Nigeria makes them only the second country after Brazil to record back-to-back wins in the cadet World Cup.
Before this latest addition to their accolades, the Golden Eaglets’ previous four titles came when they defeated then West Germany, 2-0, in the inaugural final in Beijing in 1985; overran West African rivals, Ghana, 2-1 in 1993 in Tokyo, Japan; outshot Mexico on penalties in Seoul in 2007 and thrashed Mexico 3-0 in the last Championship match in Abu Dhabi.
The victorious Eaglets will be hoping for a warm embrace from President Buhari who, incidentally, was in charge when Nigeria won the first edition of FIFA U16 World Cup in China.
It was the then General Buhari that christened the U17 team, Golden Eaglets.
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 five titles and three runners-up medals to their names
It is fantastic that 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 honors for more than two decades, since they reached the knockout stages of the 1994 World Cup, but have not followed through. They have won African Nations’ Championships but have faded on the global stage. We hope the likes of 16-year-old Victor Osimhen will help turn that around.
With Osimhen, the new record holder at the tournament, I am more concerened than ever that he is not allowed to go the way of 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?