What do Brazil and Nigeria have in common? They are both record-breaking world champions.
While the Seleção are renowned for being the most successful team in FIFA World Cup history with five titles to their name, the African side have collected the same number of trophies at the U-17 level and finished as runners-up in the competition on another three occasions.
It is hardly surprising, then, that the Super Eaglets are once again among the favourites to win the FIFA U-17 World Cup that begins on Saturday – in Brazil of all places.
“Everyone should get ready to see a fantastic Nigerian team that play great football and have the trophy in their sights,” coach Manu Garba confidently told FIFA.com. “Ecuador, Hungary and Australia are undoubtedly strong teams that we respect, but we are record-breaking world champions and I was involved in two of our title wins.”
Indeed, Garba was head coach when the African side clinched victory in the United Arab Emirates in 2013, and served as Yemi Tella’s assistant six years earlier.
“The will to win every game is part of the DNA of every Nigerian team, and my team here in Brazil is no exception,” he said.
One player who embodies this spirit and acts as Garba’s ambassador out on the pitch is captain Samson Tijani.
“Our country’s previous success does not place any pressure on our shoulders at all,” Tijani said. “But the world is naturally expecting a great deal from us, and I’m confident that we’ll be able to follow in the footsteps of our predecessors.
“Our coaches have so much experience – not just Garba, but also his assistant Nduka Ugbade, who led Nigeria to the title for the first time as captain in 1985. They know exactly what we need to do to finish the tournament as champions.”
What you need to know about Nigeria’s Golden Eaglets
- The Nigerians finished fourth at the African U-17 Championship behind surging Angola, who beat the favourites 2-1 in the match for third place. But could this be a good omen? The Super Eaglets also finished fourth in their continental competition in 2015 before becoming world champions in Chile just a few months later.
- Assistant coach and former Nigeria international Ugbade, who won 11 senior caps and scored one goal for his country, was the first captain to ever lift the U-17 FIFA World Cup (then U16) in 1985.
- Ugabade was also part of the team that pulled off the ‘Miracle of Dammam‘ at the 1989 FIFA World Youth Championship. After going 4-0 down to the Soviet Union in the quarter-finals with half an hour left to play, Nigeria came back to equalise before winning on penalties to reach the last four.
Nigeria’s matches in Group B
Saturday Oct 26 Nigeria vs Hungary
Tuesday Oct 29 Nigeria vs Ecuador
Friday Nov. 1 Australia vs Nigeria