Abuja - Football fans in Ebonyi are praying fervently for the Golden Eaglets to successfully lift the FIFA U-17 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates on Friday.
The Nigerian lads are gunning for their fourth title, having beaten Sweden 3-0 in the semi-final on Tuesday.
Fans, who spoke to NAN on Wednesday, noted that prayers were needed for the team to surmount some obstacles which the youth teams encountered at the same stage recently.
Josiah Egbe, a football enthusiast, recalled that poor officiating robbed the Flying Eagles and the U-23 team of both the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Holland and the London 2008 Olympic Games Football Gold in 2008.
“The whole world watched in utter awe as the Norwegian referee, Tom Henning-Ovrebo, robbed Nigeria of the U-20 World Cup in 2005 by awarding Argentina two dubious penalties.
“He also practically frustrated the Flying Eagles efforts to win the match through faulty free kick and offside calls.
“The referee also marred the game with incessant booking of the Nigeria players.
“In 2008, U-23 side also lost to Argentina at the Olympic soccer final through biassed officiating, as Angelo Di Maria scored his winner from an obvious offside position,” he said.
Anselm obika, a history teacher, also recalled how the Eaglets lost the African U-17 Championship cup in Morocco in March and the FIFA U-17 World Cup on home soil in 2009.
“This same Eaglets mesmerised the whole continent in Morocco with sublime football artistry but met a brick wall from ill-luck in the final against Cote D' Ivoire.
“The team had one of its defenders sent off in the match and missed several scoring chances while Chidebere Nwakiali took a scandalous penalty kick in the ensuing shoot-outs.
“In 2009, the Golden Eaglets also reached the final stage in Abuja but could not penetrate the brick wall mounted by Switzerland’s defence.
"They missed several scoring chances, as the Swiss team won by a solitary goal,” he said.
Jimmy Obah, the curator of Nehuda Football Club of Abakaliki, was optimistic that the Eaglets would win the match due to their splendid runs and luck.
“The team trounced Mexico 6-1 in the group stages, as it has proven that it possesses all technical and tactical requirements of a complete team.
“Its predecessors won the nation’s three earlier titles on Asian soils: China (1985), Japan (1993) and South Korea (2007), he said.
Chief Osita Umeh, a businessman, warned the Eaglets not to be complacent as the Mexicans have shown that they possess the champions stuff to compete for the trophy.
“Its ability to shrug off the 1-6 bashing from Nigeria to reach the final, shows that it has corrected its deficiencies and would ride on the inspiration of being the defending champions,” he said.
Nneka Nnoli, a human rights activist, urged Nigerians to take the outcome of Friday's final match in good faith.
The Eaglets, she said, have done the country proud.
“Nigerians should appreciate the team’s efforts, as this would motivate the talents that abound in the country to replicate such feats,” she said.