By John Egbokhan, Abuja
Golden Eaglets, last night at the Abuja National Stadium, exposed the poor defensive record of New Zealand with a 5-0 thrashing to book an easy passage to the quarter-final of the FIFA Under-17 World Cup. The Nigerians meet North Korea on Monday at the U.J. Esuene Stadium Calabar.
Coming into this on-going tournament, the OceaniaÂ champions, came with a heavy burden of being the team with the worst defensive record. They had conceded 43 goals in all the nine FIFA U-17 World Cup matches, an average of 4.8 goals per game. In the 199
7 competition alone, New Zealand conceded 22 goals.
But things appeared to be looking good for the boys from the Down Under in the three matches that they played at this event before yesterdayâ€™s date with Nigeria, whose coach, John Obuh, had taken time to purr over his opponents defensive record. And in retrospect, the tactics worked magic as the Eaglets romped to their biggest win here.
In the group stage, New Zealand were lucky not to lose any match but they did not have the luxury of winning any either. They drew all their three matchesÂ a 1-1 score line. They were .grouped alongside Turkey, Costa Rica and Burkina Faso in Enugu. It was their first good run in any FIFA U-17 competition.
But their good run was blown up last night by a rampant Nigerian side, whose first goal came as early as the 14th minute, throughÂ a power strike by Edafe Egbedi. The goal calmed fansâ€™ nerves. They respondedÂ with victory chants. It was simply overwhelming for them because they had in previous matches, been made to wait for some time, before the Nigerians could score.
After the first goal, the desire of the Eaglets to score more increased and fittingly,Â Okoro, the lad from Heartland, from whom much was expected finally broke his duck with a simple tap in the 24th minute.Â Azeez, has been having a ball here with his strong show in Eagletsâ€™s midfield. He reminds one of former Eagles captain, Sunday Oliseh. His marking is timely and his distribution of the ball is good.
With two goals in the bag, the appetite of the Eaglets swelled to another height in the 27th minute when Egbedi, who is the leading Nigeriaâ€™s goal scorer here, got his brace, with an unstoppable shot to increase the score-line to 3-0. It was a wonder strike as he had to beat his marker before driving home a curling shot that beat Turipa in goal for the All Whites.
Aigbe Oliha,Â much improved right full back, had overlapped to join the attack before supplying Egbedi, with the easy pass, which the lethal striker unleashed into the net.
The fans were in a frenzy of celebrations and begged for more goals but none was forthcoming in the latter part of the first half and the firstÂ 20 minutes of the second half, despite the fact that New Zealand were playing with oneÂ man short. But the goalsÂ came in later as Sani Emmanuel, who is turning into a super sub, netted a brace, to send Eaglets 5-0 up. His first came in the 75th minute, off a pass from Okoro and his second, came moments later.
Added to the winner he scored against Argentina in Bauchi, Emmanuel has scored three goals in the matches he has so far played in this tournament.