Golden Eaglets of Nigeria capped an enthralling Fifa’17 tournament with ruthless dominance over the Junior Malian team, thereby retaining the crown they secured so impressively two years ago in the United Arab Emirates. Belgium had earlier finished third, after seeing off Mexico in a pulsating opening game.
The showpiece match played out in the way many observers had predicted, partly because of the level of familiarity between the two teams, who both played starring roles at the 2015 CAF African U-17 Championship, where the Nigerians finished fourth and the Malians emerged victorious.
In Vina del Mar Chile on Sunday, the Golden Eaglets’ attacking prowess eventually made the difference, as two goals in three second-half minutes sealed the destination of the trophy.
In doing so, the Nigerians claimed the fifth U-17 World Cup crown, following on from their previous successes at China 1985, Japan 1993, Korea Republic 2007 and UAE 2013. In addition, they finished as runners-up at Canada 1987, Trinidad and Tobago 2001 and Nigeria 2009.
Although they retained the U-17 World Cup as a team, Nigeria were also well represented among the individual awards. Their captain, Kelechi Nwakali, picked up the adidas Golden Ball and the adidas Bronze Boot, while ace marksman Victor Osimhen pocketed the adidas Golden Boot and adidas Silver Ball, creating a new goalscoring record of 10 goals scored, being the highest scored by an individual in the tournament.
Mali’s impressive crop of players achieved much more than a historic runners-up spot at a FIFA event. Not only did they receive the acclaim of the Chilean fans, who supported them during the match and gave them a standing ovation after the final whistle, but their efforts were also recognised by the Nigerian players, who formed a guard of honour when their defeated opponents went up to collect their runners-up medals. In addition, Samuel Diarra won the adidas Golden Glove award and attacker Aly Malle earned the adidas Bronze Ball.
“We have worked very hard for this success and we hope to continue. The players will go home now but their journey is not over yet. I have football in my blood, as a player and as a coach. This is what I want to pass to my players.”
Emmanuel Amuneke, Nigeria coach