The Nigeria U17 team, the Golden Eaglets in Santiago, Chile will Saturday kick start their quest for an unprecedented fifth FIFA U17 World Cup title
Already with four titles, Nigeria is seen as one of the most successful teams in the history of cadet Mundial and the country is hoping to further improve on their ratings in Chile.
As far back as in 1985, a group of relatively unknown Nigerian teenagers took the world by storm; conquering all comers by winning the first-ever Fifa cadet youth tournament in China defeating the then West Germany 2-0 in the final.
From then, Nigeria has not looked back adding three more titles in 1993, 2007 and most recently in 2013.
Aside claiming the ultimate crown on four occasions, the FIFA U17 tournament has helped Nigeria unearth new talents though many argue that the quantity discovered does not measure with the successes recorded in the biennial tournament.
Jonathan Akpoborie, Nduka Ugabde, Victor Ikpeba, Nwankwo Kanu, Celestine Babayaro, John Obi Mikel, Lukman Haruna, Taiwo Awonyi and Kelechi Iheanacho are some of the stars that have come through the ranks in Under-17 cadre for Nigeria.
The majority of the players aforementioned went on to play for the Super Eagles while the recent sets are waiting on the flanks to do same.
The quest for a fifth title for the Golden Eaglets will start on Saturday in Santiago when they take on the United States Chile in their first group game.
President of the NFF, Amaju Pinnick has emphasised the need for Nigeria to start well against the Americans who have very little pedigree in football, at least at this level.
““The Eaglets must win in Santiago for three valuable points that will put them in good stead for qualification to the Round of 16,” The NFF boss stated.
Indeed, the Eaglets will be keen to atone for their far from commanding performance during the Africa qualifiers where they fell to the Guineans and South Africans and show that they have lost none of the prowess that took them to the 2013 title, when they set a new goal scoring record for the tournament.
It yet to be seen how they perform against the USA team who are making their return to a competition they missed out on for the one and only time in 15 attempts two years ago.
On his part, Emmanuel Amuneke, Coach of the present Eaglets squad admits that knows the humongous task before him as he was part of the crew when Coach Manu Garba-led a bunch of exciting youngsters to conquer the world in the UAE.
The Eaglets were hailed as they played some incredible football leading all the way to the final and scoring goals claiming the highest number of goals ever in a final game.
Iheanacho won the best player of the tournament while Dele Alampasu was adjudged the best goalkeeper of the tournament.
“We are here with new players who want to write their own history and we are looking forward to our first game against the United States of America, which is very important for us.” Amuneke said on arrival in Chile.
With this exciting precedence, it was no surprise when The World Football governing body (FIFA) picked the Golden Eaglets of Nigeria among the favourites to win the Chile 2015 U-17 World Cup.
The 16th edition of the youth competition like in recent years have 24 teams on parade; four from Africa and they will battle it through October 17 and November 8.
In all, a total of 504 gifted youngsters are dreaming of following the footsteps of ‘senior boys,’ who used the U-17 World Cup to announce their presence.
African nations have had the edge over their European and South American rivals in the competition, having won six of the 15 previous editions.
Nigeria’s group stage fixtures
Saturday, October 17, 2015
v USA (Estadio Nacional Julio Martinez)
Tuesday, October 20, 2015
v Chile (Estadio Sausalito, Vina del Mar)
Friday, October 23, 2015
v Croatia (Estadio Franciso Sanchez Ramoruso)
Nigeria Record at the Fifa Under-17 World Cup
Winners: 1985, 1993, 2007, 2013
Runners-up: 1987, 2001, 2009
Number of fair play awards – 4
Goalkeepers: Akpan Udoh, Amos Benjamin, Chisom Chiaha
Defenders: Tochukwu Ibe, Lukman Zakari, Ejike Ikwu, John Lazarus
Midfielders: David Enogela, Kingsley Michael, Samuel Chukwueze, Edidiong Essien, Chukwudi Agor, Joel Osikel, Kelechi Nwakali, Chinedu Madueke
Forwards: Funsho Bamgboye,Victor Osimhen, Sunday Alimi, Udochukwu Anumudu, Orji Okwonkwo, Osinachi Ebere