The final match of the FIFA U17 World Cup can pass for a battle of champions as it pitches the Golden Eaglets, the defending champion, against the Malian side, which made history on March 1, in Niamey, Niger, by being crowned African champions for the first time.
Both Nigeria and Mali sure deserve to be where they are at the moment and either of the two teams is good enough to take home the trophy, although some may argue that the free-scoring Eaglets deserve the top prize more.
From the onset, Mali and Nigeria have been improving with each passing game in Chile and the Eaglets Coach, Emmanuel Amuneke, has said the final is a good advertisement for African football.
Pride for Africa
On Sunday, the two West African sides will clash at the Estadio Sausalito in Vina del Mar in what is only the second –ever All-African final, since Nigeria and Ghana clashed in Japan 22 years ago, with the Eaglets winning 2-1.
Both Nigeria and Mali have flown the continent’s flag with pride en route to Sunday’s final and Amuneke said it would be a great day for African football yet again in Vina del Mar.
“African football has developed over the years and playing against Mali in the final of Chile 2015 shows that Africa is strong at this level,” Amuneke noted at the post match conference in Concepción after Golden Eaglets’ 4-2 win over Mexico.
The Golden Eaglets had in the run-up enjoyed favourable results at Estadio Sausalito in Vina del Mar where they crushed Chile 5-1 in their second group phase match, annihilated Australia 6-0 in the second round and battered Brazil 3-0 in the quarter final.
“On Sunday, we would give a good account of ourselves in Vina del Mar which has been a good venue for us,” the former Barcelona winger explained.” The fans all over Chile have been friendly but we have a special feeling playing in Vina del Mar where we have many fans.”
Going into Sunday’s final, expectations are high to say the least, as everyone that matters in football in the country has charged the Eaglets to complete the good work they started by winning their fifth U17 World Cup in Chile.
The NFF President, Amaju Pinnick, Chairman of the NFF Technical and Development Committee, Felix Anyansi-Agwu, are some of the personalities that have charged the Eaglets to get the job done against their West African foes.
With four wins (1985, 1993, 2007 and 2013), Nigeria has the highest record of triumphs in the global cadet championship. Victory over Mali in a sumptuous all-African final in Chile’s tourist destination, Vina del Mar, will take Nigeria’s wins to five, followed by Brazil with three.
History serves a mix bag for Nigeria that could portend winning or losing Sunday’s final. In one breath, Nigeria has never lost to an African opposition the three times they have had to play.
In other breath, Nigeria has never won the U17 World Cup outside the continent of Asia. They were finalist in Canada 1987, Trinidad and Tobago 2001 and Nigeria 2009.
With Sunday’s final set for South America, will Eaglets break that jinx?
The final match starts 11 p.m on Sunday and PREMIUM TIMES will bring you Live Updates.
Support PREMIUM TIMES' journalism of integrity and credibility
Good journalism costs a lot of money. Yet only good journalism can ensure the possibility of a good society, an accountable democracy, and a transparent government.
For continued free access to the best investigative journalism in the country we ask you to consider making a modest support to this noble endeavour.
By contributing to PREMIUM TIMES, you are helping to sustain a journalism of relevance and ensuring it remains free and available to all.
TEXT AD: To advertise here . Call Willie +2347088095401...