The Golden Eaglets will start the defence of their FIFA U-17 World Cup title in Chile when they take on the United States of America in the torunament’s opening game on Saturday. The Eaglets who didn’t do too well at the Africa U-17 Cup of Nations in Niger, will hope to emulate their predecessors by winning a fifth title for Nigeria.
As millions of Nigerians will be backing the team to do well in Chile, Completesportsnigeria.com’s JAMES AGBEREBI lists out EIGHT interesting facts about the Eaglets since making their debut in China in 1985…
THEY’VE NEVER LOST AN OPENING GAME AT THE U-17 WORLD CUP
Since the Golden Eaglets started appearing at the FIFA U-17 World Cup, they are yet to lose their opening game. It is on record that they have played 10 opening games, recorded six wins and four draws. (1985: Nigeria 1-0 Italy) (1987: Nigeria 1-1 Soviet Union) (1989: Nigeria 4-0 Canada) (1993: Nigeria 8-0 Canada) (1995: Nigeria 1-1 Qatar) (2001: Nigeria 2-1 France) (2003: Nigeria 1-1 Costa Rica) (2007: Nigeria 2-1 France) (2009: Nigeria 3-3 Germany) (2013: Nigeria 6-1 Mexico).
THEY THRASHED CANADA 8-0 IN JAPAN 1993, THEIR HIGHEST EVER OPENING GAME SCORELINE
At the 1993 edition in Japan, the Golden Eaglets walloped Canada 8-0 in their first game of the tournament. It was their biggest opening day win ever. Goals from Nwankwo Kanu (hat-trick), Peter Anosike (brace) Ibrahim Babangida (brace) and Festus Odini, sealed the emphatic win for the Eaglets. The closest to this was in 2013 in the UAE where they beat Mexico 6-1.
THEY ARE YET TO LOSE IN THE SEMI-FINAL AT THE U-17 WORLD CUP
The Golden Eaglets have not tasted defeat in the semi-final of the U-17 World Cup. They have a knack of always progressing into the final whenever they reach the last four: (1985: NIGERIA 1-1 GUINEA, WON 4-2 ON PEN.) (1987: Nigeria 1-0 Italy) (1993: Nigeria 2-1 Poland) (2001: Nigeria 5-1 Australia) (2007: Nigeria 3-1 Germany) (2009: Nigeria 3-1 Spain) (2013: Nigeria 3-0 Sweden).
THEY HAVE NEVER WON A FINAL AFTER CONCEDING FIRST
One sour aspect of the Golden Eaglets is that they’ve never gone on to win in a final match at the U-17 World Cup after conceding first. All the three defeats they’ve suffered in the final, the opponents scored first. Against Soviet Union in 1987, Philip Osondu drew the Eaglets level after Yuri Nikiforov had put the Europeans ahead. And in the penalty shootout, the Eaglets lost 4-2.
At the 2001 edition in Trinidad and Tobago, they crumbled 3-0 in the final to France despite beating them 2-1 in their opening group game.
And in the 2009 edition which was hosted in Nigeria, a less fancied Switzerland side shocked the Eaglets inside the Abuja National Stadium with a 1-0 win. Despite dominating a large part of the game, the Swiss scored against the run of play and held on in spite of a relentless onslaught from the Eaglets.
THEY’VE ONLY LOST TO EUROPEAN TEAMS IN FINALS
Though the Eaglets have defeated European teams on two occassions before in the final of the U-17 World Cup (West Germany and Spain), their three defeats in finals have only been to European teams: (1987: Soviet Union, 2001: France and 2009: Switzerland).
THEY’VE NEVER LOST TO AN AFRICAN TEAM AT THE U-17 WORLD CUP
The Golden Eaglets have crossed paths with African teams three times at the U-17 World Cup, and have emerged victors in all three meetings.
They first met Guinea at the semi-final of the maiden edition in China and won 4-2 in a penalty shootout. Regulation time ended 1-1. In Japan 1993, they squared up against Ghana in the final and triumphed 2-1. And in the 2001 edition, they managed a 1-0 win against Burkina Faso in the semi-final.
CHILE WILL BE THE SECOND HOST TEAM THEY WILL BE MEETING
The first time the Golden Eaglets faced the host team at the U-17 World Cup was against Japan in 1993 in the quarter-final. They went on to win 2-1 with goals from Wilson Oruma and Festus Odini. This year’s edition will see them take on the host country for the second time in their history in the tournament.
THEIR ONLY TWO QUARTER-FINAL DEFEATS HAVE BEEN TO ASIAN TEAMS
The Golden Eaglets have only suffered defeats twice at the U-17 World Cup. And it is surprising that it has only come against Asian teams.
The first was in Scotland 1989 where they lost 2-0 on penalty shootout to Saudi Arabia, who went on to win the tournament. And the second time they experienced a loss in the quarter-final was in Ecuador 1995, losing 2-1 to Oman despite taking the lead from the penalty spot.