Nigeria is the king of FIFA U-17 football. Full stop. The Golden Eaglets are eight-time finalists and five-time winners, there should be no debate on this. This is despite the age controversies or the players that never developed – Nigeria continues to produce world-class talent at this level.
With the 2019 U-17 World Cup kicking off in Brazil on October 25, the country will present another set of hugely talented youngsters, who with good management should become the fulcrum of the Super Eagles in a few years. Wins in consecutive tournaments – 2013 and 2015 and major Nigerian undertones in the England team victorious in 2017 make this statement a fact.
There is a common thread between the 2013, 2015, and 2019 sets – the coaches, Manu Garba, Emmanuel Amuneke, and Nduka Ugbade. From the Golden Eaglets 2013 set, we got Kelechi Iheanacho, Chidiebere Nwakali, Francis Uzoho, Isaac Success, and Taiwo Awoniyi while from the 2015 set, we have Victor Osimhen, Samuel Chukwueze, Kelechi Nwakali, and Kingsley Samuel.
The excitement with this new set of Golden Eaglets is that they are coached by Garba and Ugbade, who have become the initiators of teams that are young and play football. Though they did not win the CAF U-17 tournament, they showed enough (even against supposedly bigger and older opponents) to ensure the world will once again be citing her eye on these young Nigerians.
The likes of Akinkunmi Amoo, Ibraheem Jabaar, Wisdom Ubani, Olakunle Olusegun, and Fawaz Abdullahi are serious Golden Eaglets talents, who will shine in Brazil.
They may not win the tournament, but they will cause waves and get mentions.
Amoo, stocky with big thighs is a Lionel Messi-like player – strong on the ball, quick in the dribble, with a good shot on him – the left-footer is already attracting attention from some of the best teams in the world and a good showing in Brazil will confirm his status as a wunderkind.
Jabaar is another left-footer in the team and the comparisons to Argentina’s Angel di Maria are striking. The cutting dribble and angled shots from outside the box are some moves in his repertoire. Jabaar always looks to dribble at speed, looking to commit his opponent to a hasty tackle. The spindly youngster will get the requisite attention with minutes in Brazil.
Ubani is the team bulldozer who packs dynamite in his right foot. No distance is too far for the 16-year-old to aim a shot on goal, but he is also resolute in his running and tackling back. Ubani may not be as flamboyant but no one can criticise him for not being effective at both ends of the pitch.
When the Golden Eaglets kick off their campaign on October 26 against Hungary, you cannot say we have not warned you!
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