Nigeria made history in the FIFA Under-17 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates as the Golden Eaglets became the most decorated team in the history of the competition after defeating Mexico 3-0 to win the Cup for a record fourth time.
After winning the maiden edition of the competition in 1985 in China, Nigeria went on to win the competition two more times-in Japan in 1993 and in South Korea in 2007.
The final yesterday at the Mohammad Bin Zayed Stadium was a rematch of the group stage meeting between the two teams which Nigeria won 6-1. Again, Nigeria defeated the Mexicans for the second time and the Golden Eaglets lay hands on the U-17 trophy for the fourth time, one better than South American giants, Brazil.
When the final whistle went in the UAE capital, fans and players alike rejoiced, fingers pointed to the sky, with what has become the traditional Nigerian celebration of: “yes, yes yes!”
It was not surprising however that Nigeria’s Iheanacho was voted the Most Valuable Player of the tournament and also won the Bronze Boot, while the team’s safe hand, Dele Alampasu was adjudged the best goalkeeper of the tournament.
In an interview after the game, Golden Eaglets coach, Manu Garba said he was happy that his lads won after a very difficult game.
“I always knew the Mexicans were going to be difficult but I’m happy we carried the day in the end. Though it is not all about winning but rather about football philosophy and I believe most of them will go on to play in the U-20 squad and will form the nucleus of the future Super Eagles,” Manu said.
Minutes after Eaglets’ victory yesterday, President Goodluck Jonathan sent a congratulatory message to the team, saying, “I join other very proud and happy Nigerians in saluting the glorious achievement of the Eaglets in winning the Under-17 Soccer Championship for an unprecedented fourth time.”
Jonathan commended the Eaglets for the exemplary commitment, dedication, resilience, determination, patriotism and unity of purpose displayed through-out the tournament to make Nigeria the World’s Under-17 Football Champion once again.
In fulfilment of his promise of a heroes’ welcome for the triumphant Golden Eaglets, the president hosted a grand reception for the team at the Banquet Hall of the State House at 7 pm on Sunday, November 10, 2013 “in appreciation of the great honour and glory they have brought to their fatherland.”
He 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.