Nigeria will for the 7th time be involved in Under 17 World Football Cup championship games. Nigeria has won it 3 three times (China 1985, Japan 1993, and Korea Republic 2007) more than any other nation since it’s founding in 1985. This year Nigeria would be facing off against the defending champion Mexico, a country that has won the World Championships two times already. Nigeria had beaten Mexico in this preliminary series earlier.
What are Nigeria’s chances come Friday?
The chances are very good. Nigeria, as mentioned earlier, beat Mexico in early rounds and so would have confidence that it could beat Mexico. Nigeria has also been dominant in its games. Except for the tie with Sweden during the preliminary rounds Nigeria has not lost any games in 2013 tournament. In the semi finals it beat Sweden 3.0. Mexico has also been dominant and except for the loss to Nigeria has not lost any other game. It did tie with Brazil during regulation and had to go to double shoot-outs to beat Brazil in quarter finals. One thing that makes this writer nervous is that Nigeria could be too confident. It is over confidence that would spell the doom for Nigeria. A resurgent Mexico, eager to avenge the earlier preliminary loss poses the greatest danger to Nigeria.
One other factor in favor of Nigeria is fan support. In the round of 16, Nigerian fans outnumbered the opponent’s by at least a factor of 3. Their music and loud support and cheering must have had a hand in the scoring for Nigerian has outscored all teams in the series. I know that Nigerians can be found any where but how come that there are so many of them In Dubai?
Is this because of Muslim merchants or Igbo traders?
One question posed recently is if Nigeria is so good in the FIFA under 17 why is Nigeria not a factor at all, in senior world cup games. One of suggested answers has been that Nigeria fields players who are much older than 17. There have been some Nigerian players who were found to have been older than 17 when they played. But those players were not major factors in the games they played. But this could still be a factor at least for their leadership.
I will suggest two other reasons:
- An Under 17 game is a function of natural unrefined talent. These players are mostly high school players who have not been camped for long; have not been exposed to a lot of evil; and are mostly playing out their hearts. They have not been exposed to most of the societal failings. By the time they get to their 20’s they would have gone through university where their training had would have stalled. So far in 2013 Nigerian universities have been closed for 4 months. The college soccer players would have had their training programs suspended. The same thing might happen up to 3 times while they are in college. As they suspend their training their enthusiasm suffers.
- A second reason is that those who show great talent would have been exposed to European teams and are recruited to play. The number of Nigerians in European teams suggests that this had been an important factor. Although these players have sometimes been summoned back to Nigeria they seldom form a cohesive team as they bring along with them the playing styles from their varied teams.
Will 2013 bring another championship to Nigeria? We shall see in three days.
Benjamin Obiajulu Aduba
November 5, 2013