Abuja - NFF President Amaju Pinnick was in ecstasy on Thursday night after
the Golden Eaglets defeated hard –fighting Mexico 4-2 in Concepcion to reach
the final of the FIFA U-17 World Cup Chile 2015.
Pinnick barely had time to catch his breath from a long trip that
took him from London to Buenos Aires and Santiago before arriving in
Concepcion. But he was on time to meet the team at the Diego de Almagro Hotels
before they set out to the Estadio Municipal Ester Roa.
“I’m very excited, not only with the result, but the way the boys
came fighting back after that early goal by Mexico. I keep saying that we have
the potential to be world champions in several areas of endeavor.
“These boys have done Nigeria proud. They will go up against Mali
on Sunday with great confidence and discipline, and emerge victorious.”
Mexico hit fast and hard as the Eaglets again chose to sit back
and soak the pressure in the opening minutes. Magana struck past the brilliant
Akpan Udoh in the 8thminute for Mexico’s opener, drawing the Eaglets
Captain Kelechi Nwakali drew Nigeria level with a brilliant free
–kick with 10 minutes to the end of first half. But there was still time for
Orji Okonkwo to rifle past the Mexican goalie in the 43rd minute
for one of the goals of the tournament.
Mexico drew level on the hour mark as defender Diego Cortes sliced
through the Nigerian defence as if it were not there. But Osinachi Ebere got on
the end of a magnificent pass by Nwakali to restore Nigeria’s lead in the 67thminute,
as the goalkeeper helped his close range shot into the net.
Also read: Pinnick sure Eaglets will beat Australia
Victor Osimhen got his ninth goal of the tournament from the
penalty spot after the lively right back John Lazarus was upended in the
Mexican box, Osimhen thus equaled the tournament record of nine goals (by
Sinima Pongolle of France in 2001 and Soulemany Coulibaly of Cote d’Ivoire in
Before the match, Pinnick had again commended the Golden Eaglets
for their exemplary conduct at the FIFA U-17 World Cup, as he met Head Coach
Emmanuel Amuneke, players and other officials. In attendance also was NFF
Deputy General Secretary, Dr. Emmanuel Ikpeme and Assistant Director
(Technical) Siji Lagunju.
"Nigerians are happy with all of you because you have
represented us well and I'm personally proud of you," said Pinnick.
"I don't want you to forget that anything you are doing is for our great
"Thirty years ago, we won this trophy when President
Muhammadu Buhari was the military Head of State and it would be a great thing
if we can do it again when he is now the civilian President."
The NFF President once again heaped encomiums on Coach Amuneke,
advising the players to draw inspiration from his leadership quality both on
and off the field.
"Your coach has proved that he indeed played for FC
Barcelona; that he indeed is a legend of Nigerian football and a worthy African
Footballer of the Year for that matter," he said. "We want you to pay
attention to his instructions and know that over 170 Million Nigerians are
behind and supporting you."
He said the occasion was not for talking and the NFF would soon
unfold programme and agenda towards keeping these players for future
assignments after Chile 2015.
On Sunday in Vina del Mar, Nigeria will be looking for a record
extending fifth FIFA U-17 World Cup title, and Osimhen will be looking to set
the tournament’s goals record.