By Eddie Akalonu
Coach Franklin Howard has said that Nigeria has the capacity to defend successfully theÂ FIFA U-17 World Cup if the nationalU -17 team could go the extra mile of showcasing an improved and sharpened talents that the world has come to associate Nigeria with over time well here on home soil, as the Nigeria 2009 U-17 World Cup gets underway today with the Eaglets engaging their German opponents in Abuja.
Howard, a former national U-20 team captain, said coach John Obuh and his team have all his backing to do well in these times that the senior teams have not faired well in international competitions.
â€œI watched the U-17 take on Julius Berger a few das ago in a friendly match and I saw talents, I saw a bunch of talented boys on display, they are very strong physically and I believe they would grow with time. I was not too happy with their poor finishing because football today is all about goal scoring. If the team canâ€™t score in a competition, then there is a problem.
I can only hope that as the competition progresses, the team would improve, especially in the area of goal scoring. Although I did not have an opportunity to speak with the coach, I feel finishing is crucial for a team going into such a competition as a World Cup. Thatâ€™s just my opinion.
Stating further, Howard who steered Shooting Stars back to the Premier League fromÂ Division One, said â€œOn the strength of what I saw of the match, I canâ€™t say whether our team would go far in the competition or not because we are yet to see the other teams play and compare with our team. After we see what the opponents look like, then we would be in a position to access our team and begin to forecast who can win. But I believe we can win if our team work hard being on home soil and like I said shoot well to score goals and win matches, Howard statedâ€
With the Super Eagles fumbling in the 2010 World Cup qualifiers such that Tunisia is almost picking the groupâ€™s ticket to South Africa and the junior national back from the U-20 World Cup in Egypt after a dismal performance, a good outing by the Eaglets on home soil in this U-17 World Cup would definitely warm the hearts of many and rekindle hope that football is not in total ruins after all.