Nigerian teens win FIFA World Cup again

16 September 2007 at 09:12 | 2672 views

By Abayomi Charles Roberts.

Nigeria’s Golden Eaglets were brilliant as the team beat Spain 3-0 to win the recent FIFA Under-17 World Cup. South Korea hosted the soccer tournament, which ended in Seoul, Korea, September 9, 2007. The Eaglets won all seven of their matches in their five-star campaign.

In the Group phase, the Nigerians got maximum points, beating France, Japan and Haiti. They conceded only two goals in the round, hitting the mark nine times. In the next round, the Eaglets won 2-1 against Columbia, going on to defeat Argentina 2-0 in the quarterfinals. In the semis, the teenagers triumphed 3-1. Germany were their opponents. In the final, Nigeria beat Spain 3-0 on post game-game penalties, after a 0-0 deadlock by the end of extra time.

Some say good things come in threes. That was the case for Nigeria. It was the third Asia-hosted edition of the global tournament. The Golden Eaglets won the Seoul grand finale by three goals. It was their third gold medal at the games. All their three title wins have been on Asian turf. They came to ‘Korea 2007’ confident and poised to win again. They did! “We’ll take the trophy back to Nigeria,” Coach Yemi Tella had earlier challenged, according to FIFA media.

Another African side, Ghana, came close but fell to Spain in the semi-finals. The Ghanaians also lost the third-place match to Germany. The Germans squeezed through, 2-1, in extra time, to bag bronze. Togo and Tunisia are the other countries from Africa.

Twenty-four national teams took part. The top four are Nigeria, Spain, Germany and Ghana. The other countries are Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Columbia, Costa Rica, England, France, Haiti, Honduras, Japan, N/Korea, S/Korea, Peru, Syria, Tajikistan, Togo, Tunisia, Trinidad & Tobago, USA and New Zealand. Spain are three-time finalists but have never won the cup.

Nigeria’s Macauley Christantus was top scorer at this year’s series, on target seven times. In the final match, however, the youngster who stole the show was the Golden Eaglets’ goalkeeper. Oladele Ajiboye saved a few more shots to deny the Spaniards global glory, in the spot kicks. Mathew Edile, Daniel Joshua and Ganiyu Oseni, each netted for Nigeria.

Nigeria won the 1993 edition, beating Ghana 2-1 in Japan. In 1985, the Golden Eaglets defeated finalists (West) Germany, 2-0. That was in China. Meantime Guinea’s senior side, Syli Nationale, beat Cape Verde 4-0 the same weekend to book a place in the 2008 Cup of African Nations finals in Ghana. Their Under-17 placed fourth in the 1985 World Cup. The Guinean teenagers lost to Brazil after Nigeria had earlier edged past them (Guinea) in the semifinals.

Other qualifiers for Ghana 2008, so far, are: Angola, Cameroun, Ivory Coast, Morocco, Namibia, Nigeria, Senegal, Sudan, Tunisia and hosts Ghana.

CAF moves Benin/Sierra Leone match to mid-October

On the home front, CAF has postponed Group 9 CAN matches to October 12 this year. Sierra Leone was to host Benin in Freetown on the September 8 weekend. It was the day for final voting in presidential elections but the Confederation “had not received security guaranties” from SLFA, according to official sources. Similarly, CAF found out that Togo was due to hold elections October 14. Togo and Mali are joint leaders in the group, with Benin close behind. Sierra Leone is way back and stands little or no chance to qualify for Ghana 2008. The problem now is that Sierra Leone is due to play a World Cup qualifier against Guinea Bissau that same October 12 weekend.

Meantime, Confederation Internationale de Football (CAF) has named the 30 best African football players in the past 50 years. It was the result of a survey of fans to mark the African soccer confederation’s 50th birthday this year. Roger Milla of Cameroun tops the list. He was excellent on the pitch, especially in the 1990 and 1994 FIFA World Cup finals.