By Pat Muo
It was very heart-warming – that victory by Nigeria’s Golden Eaglets. The final match was a big memoriam. Victor Osimbeh did more than drop the Blood Pressure of Nigerians that fateful Monday morning. And Funsho Bamgboye finally nailed the nail into the coffin!Those goals made history. They became the goals that successfully defended the FIFA U-17 world cup won by the Eaglets two years ago in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Victory is sweet, very sweet. The very first time most Nigerians saw President Muhammadu Buhari in relaxed and laughing mood with the day he spoke to the Golden Eaglets’ players on phone. It was a good omen. Nigerians for once, believed that their president can laugh! Football did it. The Golden Eaglets practicalized it.
It was the fifth sweet victory of the Eaglets in the competition. FIFA warned the other countries who participated in the competition about Nigeria. It warned them that Nigeria was the team to beat. They offered deaf ears to the warning.
Croatia, the most stubborn team to the competition, actually broke the camel’s back at the group stages when it humbled the Golden Eaglets by 2-1.
But it didn’t stop the Golden Eaglets Nigeria from defending their as champions of the world. Nigeria therefore, became only the second side to retain the FIFA U-17 World Cup with that 2-0 win against Mali in Vina Del Mar. Victor Osimhen stole the show once again thanks to his record-breaking tenth goal of the tournament with Funsho Bamgboye adding a second moments later. Samuel Diarra had saved an early Osinachi Ebere penalty as the Malians played their part in an entertaining finale to Chile 2015.
The penalty came as both sides were just finding their rhythm in the opening exchanges, Chato the culprit with a handball. Ebere saw his low effort saved brilliantly by Diarra, the No.17’s follow up header hit the bar before a third bite of the cherry was blocked by the Malian defence.
Both sides had chances in a tense opening period, with Golden Eaglets skipper Kelechi Nwakali hitting just wide and Boubacar Traore seeing his glancing header tipped over by Akpan Udoh.
The second half saw the game burst into life, with Emmanuel Amuneke’s words clearly working their magic on the Nigerian youngsters. Osimhen shrugged off the challenge of Mamadou Fofana before hitting a wonderful dipping half volley towards goal, which Diarra spectacularly saved. Udochukwu Anumudu then smashed a thunderous effort at goal, which rebounded back off the crossbar and was cleared away.
Mali did not heed those warnings. Good approach play by substitute Chinedu Madueke say him tee up Osimhen for his record-breaking goal, seeing him surpass the nine goals scored by Florent Sinama Pongolle in 2001 and Souleymane Coulibaly ten years later.
The holders doubled their advantage few minutes later, with Bamgboye bursting down the Nigerian left before smashing a powerful effort at goal, Diarra standing with little chance.
Despite a couple of late chances for Mali, from corner kicks, Nigeria retained possession for large spells and saw the game out to retain their crown. The jubilant scenes on the final whistle in Vine Del Mar would surely live long in the memories of these Nigerian heroes of the present, some of who may just become the starts of the future.