Nigeria’s Golden Eaglets make history by winning the FIFA U-17 World Cup for a record fourth time
| By Anayo Ezugwu | Nov. 18, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT
THE Golden Eaglets of Nigeria made history in the world of football when the team won the FIFA Under-17 World Cup tournament in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on November 8. The team beat Mexico 3-0 in the final. Goals from Kelechi Iheanacho, Musa Mohammed and an own-goal gave Nigeria the trophy. This feat made Nigeria the first team to win the youth grade competition for a record fourth time.
Nigerian players also won most of the individual awards. Iheanacho, won the silver boot and golden ball awards, while Mohammed, got fair play award and Dele Alampasu, won the golden glove. The Nigerian team scored 26 goals and conceded five during the tournament and also emerged as the only unbeaten team of the tournament.
It was a hard-won victory for the Golden Eaglets. The group from which the Nigerian team played produced all the three teams that won all the three medals of the tournament. Little wonder that many Nigerians took to the streets with fireworks and social media to celebrate the achievement.
President Goodluck Jonathan, while congratulating the Golden Eaglets for making Nigerians very proud and happy, saluted the team’s glorious achievement for an unprecedented fourth time. In a statement issued by Reuben Abati, special adviser to the president on media, Jonathan 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 said he looked forward to hosting the team at the Banquet Hall of the State House on Sunday, November 10, in appreciation of the great honour and glory done to the country.
Anakebe Chima Valentine, managing director, Ozuzuaka Investments Limited, said that he was excited that Nigeria capped its scintillating performance by winning the trophy. “I am very happy today with the performance of these young boys. Everybody knows football is the only thing that unites Nigerians. During football match Nigerians speak one language. I’m very excited the way they started the game even up till the end. They tried and they’ve really showed that they have what it takes to push our football team to the next level. This goes to say that when it comes to this team, Nigeria has been a force to reckon with. This means that if we put ourselves together like this team, the country will be a better place.”
Manu Garba, coach of the team, said before the match that winning the trophy would be his greatest achievement. According to him, another motivation for him to win the trophy was that it would be his greatest honour. “In 2007, when I was an assistant coach, Nigeria won the trophy. The team has played the best football since we started this journey. At this tournament, the players have shown the whole world the stuff they were made of because they have put everything into the competition so far. These set of players are playing total football. Of course, I have won this trophy before, beating Mexico on Friday will be the best moment of my coaching career. None of the players I brought here play in the Nigerian domestic league, the technical crew with me had to groom them from the scratch. I thank God that they have not let us down and am hoping that the Nigeria government will motivate them to do more,” he said.
En route to the final, the Golden Eaglets won all its matches. In the group phase of this tournament, the Golden Eaglets walloped Mexico, the defending champions 6-1, played a 3-3 draw against Sweden and thereafter defeated Iraq 5-0. In the knockout stage, the Golden Eaglets met their Iranian counterparts and triumphed 4-1. Afterwards, the Golden Eaglets beat Uruguay 2-0 in the quarterfinals and confirmed their superiority over the Swedes with a 3-0 win in their second meeting in the semi-final stage, to qualify for the final.