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Eaglets zoom to final

By Onochie Anibeze, Group Sports Editor
LAGOS — BRAZIL have won the FIFA World Cup a record five times and the Under-20 World Cup four times, only second to Argentina who are six time winners. Nigeria tie with Brazil for the U-17 diadem, having won it three times.
But when the final of the 13th edition holds in Abuja on Sunday, Nigeria will be attempting to surpass Brazil in this category of youth competition.

They are currently the defending champions and, last night, at the Teslim Balogun Stadium in Lagos, the Nigerians showed colossal versatility in all departments of the game in their classy semi-final tie with Spain. They superbly won, giving Nigerians a lot to cheer in a game that is fast declining in the country.

Peck Spain 3-1; meet Switzerland in final Sunday
Eaglets jubilate after scoring a goal against Spain in the semi final of the FIFA U-17 World Cup at the Teslim Balogun Stadium in Lagos, yesterday. Photo: Sylva Eleanya.

Heartland’s star, Stanley Okoro, opened scores for Nigeria when he outpaced Spanish defenders to strike home a goal that attracted a loud noise from the vuvuzela, a feature of South African football culture that Nigerians have adopted after watching the last Confederations Cup.

Vuvuzela is a horn that produces great noise when blown. It is mainly used by South African sports supporters. Teslim Balogun was noisy yesterday. The goals made the atmosphere so. It was electric and Governor Raji Fashola would be proud of the turnout, the colour and, most importantly, Nigeria’s victory that Nigerians will be talking about till Sunday and perhaps after, if they outscore Switzerland in the final. Switzerland lived up to expectations when they mauled highly rated Columbia 4-0 just before Nigeria and Spain took over the same pitch.

Two teams emerged victorious last night, but the fans were also winners. They saw good football, they cheered it and left for home with pictures of eight goals that will remain green in their memories. After Switzerland’s four goals, Nigerians scored three and Spain nipped in consolation goal to end the day. Super sub Sani Emmanuel scored two and just as the referee was blowing the final whistle, Lagos sub-seat of the Local Organising Committee ensured a great spectacle.

Fans at the the FIFA U-17 World Cup at the Teslim Balogun Stadium in Lagos
Fans at the the FIFA U-17 World Cup at the Teslim Balogun Stadium in Lagos

Fireworks took over the skies and Amanze Uchegbulam who chaired the organisers in Lagos heaved a sigh of relief for a pretty good job done in spite of the challenges that had tainted the event from Enugu to Calabar, Kano and Kaduna.

Lagos has stood out as the true centre of excellence and all those involved exchanged banters and congratulated themselves for a beautiful show that was marked with two interesting semi-final matches. Abuja, where it all began, is the last call and on Sunday, Switzerland and Nigeria will vie for the gold.

A victory for Nigeria will score them greater than Brazil in the FIFA U-17 category of world football. And that will assuage the feeling of Nigerians who are already full of expectations.

“This is great. This feeling is fantastic and I think it will be so on Sunday,” Nigeria’s coach John Obuh said as he left the stadium.


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