11th November, 2013
Since Nigeria’s Golden Eaglets emerged champions of the 2013 Under-17 World Cup after defeating Mexico 3-0 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, UAE, on Friday, encomiums have been pouring in for the team for their heroics. No doubt the Nigerian team deserve all the accolades for emerging world champions even when some people did not give them any chance. With this feat, Nigeria has become the most successful team in the history of the tournament.
The Manu Garba boys kicked off their campaign at the 14th edition of the tournament with a convincing 6-1 victory over Mexico, incidentally, the same team they defeated in the final.
The second match was however tougher for the team as they had to come from behind twice to record a 3-3 score line against Sweden. Next came Iraq and their Asian counterparts Iran but both could not withstand the firepower of Nigeria. With victory over Uruguay in the quarter-finals, and a surprising 3-0 thrashing of Group F foes, Sweden in the semi-final, Nigeria booked a place in the final, as well as a chance to make history against defending champions, Mexico. The 3-0 final victory thus denied the Mexicans a chance to retain the trophy they won in 2011.
Worthy of note are the individual honours won by the Nigerian players.
Ihanacho was the most decorated, winning the tournament’s Adidas Golden Ball Award for the overall best player, alongside the Silver Boot Award for being the second highest goal scorer. Goal keeper, Dele Alampasu also got the Addidas Golden Glove award for his heroics in Nigeria’s goal post.
Now that the team have returned to the country, attention should be focused on how the lads would progress as top players as they have the potentials. President Goodluck Jonathan, while rewarding the triumphant players with cash rewards in Aso Rock on Sunday, charged the team to go all the way to win more trophies for the country at the U-21, U-23 and the senior national team level.
It is our hope that the Nigeria Football Federation, NFF, would not be carried away by the success recorded by the team. Now is the time to put measures in place to monitor the development of the players at their clubs. This would ensure that they realise the huge potentials they displayed in UAE.
It would also ensure that they do not suffer the same fate that befell their predecessors who, after they won laurels for the country at age group tournaments could not graduate to the senior national team.
We also hope that the NFF would keep to the approach they employed to assemble these crop of players that most pundits believe to be relatively young when compared to their predecessors.
In order to replicate the success the Eaglets achieved in UAE those saddled with the responsibility to discover players for the next edition of the tourney should begin preparation in earnest to retain the trophy.