Nigeria’s U-17 national football team, the Golden Eaglets, are into their eighth semi-final since the tournament kicked off in 1985, and they have never lost a semi-final match.
There are reasons to be hopeful that Amuneke will lead his team to the final but they have to take care of a very purposeful Mexican team led by Coach Mario Arteaga, who has been speaking variously to the press saying he knows what to do and how to set up his team to stop the free-scoring Nigerian team.
The Match Plan
Score more than 2 goals
In five matches the Mexicans have scored 10 goals – an average of two goals per game. So by simple mathematical permutation [we all know that football is not], if the Eaglets score more than two goals, there is a 98% chance that they will win the encounter. So for Amuneke and his boys, three is the magic number. The other side of the theory is the fact that the Eaglets have conceded two goals in this tournament just once – against Croatia in their last group match, where they did not play well.
Fullbacks must remain attentive
From the 10 goals scored by the Mexicans, four have been from attacks down the wings and cut backs into the box. John Lazarus and Udochukwu Anumudu must be instructed to watch the space behind them at all times because the Mexicans are quick down both wings. One way they can achieve that is if the team commits to a lateral press starting with the three attackers.
Use long balls to Osimhen
The Mexicans have a little team – in terms of stature and have conceded goals in Chile on account of this. With the lanky and tall nature of the Eaglets’ arrowhead in Victor Osimhen – it will be advised that Amuneke drops him directly on the two centre backs with his back to goal. Against Brazil, he was told to attack from the left but against Mexico, the team will be best served if the eight-goal striker will deploy his height advantage to hurt the Mexicans.
|S.O.T is Shots on Target|
Preview of the semi-final on FIFA.com – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LvZ0aE-e2F0
Amuneke’s bamboozling tactics
In a recent report from FIFA’s Technical Study Group [TSG], Coach Emmanuel Amuneke was roundly lauded for bringing innovation to the game because most of Nigeria’s opponents at the Chile tournament have been unable to get to grips with the tactical and technical approach of the Eaglets.
“Sincerely, we have tried to understand the tactics you are using but it is confusing,” TSG member, Desmond Curry, is said to have told Amuneke.
“I have done some of your matches here but it is unusual to see a Number 10 (Kelechi Nwakali) playing deep as much as we have seen your player here.
Curry then added: “This is a new trend and we are going to include some of your explanations in the Technical Report of the championship because the tactical approach of your team stands out.”
So as Amuneke comes up against Mario Arteaga at the Estadio Municipal Ester Roa in Concepcion, the former Barcelona forward can continue bamboozling opponents by keeping it simple.
The Eaglets have five players on yellows – so another yellow would knock them out of the final or third-place match. Funsho Bamgboye misses out because of the yellow card he picked up against Brazil while Mexico will also be missing left-back, Ulises Torres.
“We welcome the challenge of meeting Mexico again because we are more or less old foes,” Amuneke told the Nigeria Football Federation website.
“I think it is going to be an interesting game because the Mexicans have shown in this tournament that they are a very solid side but we will continue to work towards this important semi final game.”
And the connection to the UAE will continue as the centre referee for the game will be Mohammed Abdulla Mohamed from the UAE where the Eaglets beat Mexico in the group phase 6-1 and 3-0 in the final.
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