Exclusive: How Nigeria’s Golden Eaglets plotted West Germany’s defeat in the FIFA U-16 World Cup final in 1985 – An insider’s account by team captain Nduka Ugbade
Winning the first-ever U-16 World Cup was memorable but the path to victory including in the final game against West Germany was very significant for the strategy sessions and careful planning which went into preparing for the game. Team captain Nduka Ugbade told www.naijasuperfans.com how the fear of West Germany who had destroyed all their oppositions with free-scoring dangerman Marcel Witeczek forced the coaching crew to meticulously plan for the game and counted on the players to execute.
He began: “Coaches Sebastian Brodericks and Christian Chukwu said before the semi-final against Guinea that we have just two matches to go and that if we won both we would be World champions. Chukwu said that we should not consider the trophy but that we should consider getting to the final first. And that if we get to the final, winning that final will be considered but winning the trophy will be as a result of winning the game. He was trying to make us focus and not get ahead of ourselves
They beat Guinea in a hard-fought all-African semifinal 4-2 on penalties after full time had ended 1-1 so they were in the final against West Germany who had beaten Brazil 4-3 with another hattrick from Witeczek so the strategy became very important.
“At our strategy sessions, the coaches kept talking about the importance of getting an early goal and that once get the goal, we must sit on it and ensure that if we don’t score then we should not concede a goal. The coaches said we must score first and score early.
“The West Germans had a fearsome reputation. They were crushing all opposition with their top scorer Marcel Witeczek already on eight goals, the same number our own team had scored in the entire competition. Witeczek scored two hattricks and we knew if we must win the game, we must keep an eye on him. To keep him in check, Coach Brodericks instructed that we should not follow him around but anytime he’s close to the box we should quickly close him down. “When we got to the stadium, we saw the Germans smartly dressed in Adidas kits and walking around while we both watched the third-placed game between Brazil and Guinea. The Brazilians beat Guinea 4-1 and we wondered if the Guineans who we struggled to beat in the semi-finals are being slaughtered like this by Brazil, then maybe we should be scared of the Germans who had defeated them in their semi final. “The coaches asked us to go into the dressing room and we started singing to motivate ourselves. Late Kingsley Aikhionbare, in his usual bravado, said: ‘Abeg make una no look their face. Dem no fit do us anything o, we go die here today.‘ That gave us self-confidence and we were all fired up for the game. “True to prediction, we started the game and quickly pressed for an early advantage. In the 4th minute, Fatai Atere released a pass down the right flank for Babatunde Joseph who took it down the line and made a puull out into the German danger area. According to our strategy, we had Bella Momoh, Sani Adamu and Jonathan Akpoborie inside the box who were ready to pounce. Akpoborie, who was previoulsy injured and playing his first game of the competition, was quickest to react and he thumped the ball into the net. 1-0! “The crowd went crazy. The Chinese supported us because Germany had beaten their team in the quarter-finals so they were naturally hostile to the Germans which was to our advantage but the Germans were very tough customers. “At halftime, we saw some people in green entering the stadium and they told us they were the government delegation from Nigeria. The NFA chairman Group Captain Anthony Ikhazoboh and NFA member Alhaji Grema Mohammed as well as the others came into the dressing room to address us. “Ikhazoboh said the game is being broadcast live in Nigeria and that we cannot afford to disappoint our parents and families and the entire country so we must ensure we keep our heads and win the match.
“He said in typical Pidgin English: ‘Shey una know say dem dey watch this match for Nigeria? Una go win this match o even if na one hour remain but na only 40 minutes so dey must not score us o. If una allow dem score, na we go carry the pressure and for penalty anything fit happen so when you enter field now na to go find second goal. Dem no sabi play reach una o.’
“Ikhazoboh was the ultimate Psychologist. He could talk you into doing anything. We were psyched up and left the dressing room pumped up and raring to go and devour the Germans. “As we were entering the pitch, we were hearing the coaches shouting ‘just 40 minutes more,’ so we knew we were 40 minutes away from becoming world champions. We realised that we either keep our heads and win the game and the trophy or lose the game and subsequently the trophy. We did’nt like the prospect of losing out so we put in everything we have got. For more than 35 minutes we tried all our best but we were getting tired because the Germans were unrelenting and kept coming at us. They were also heavier and taller than us. “Then, in the final minute, something dramatic happened. I think it was Bella Momoh that was trying to clear the ball away from inside our own half because at that time it was safety first approach. Before then, because I was close to the line, I could hear the coaches calling Victor Igbinoba to come back into our own half to help because he was also very tired. They just wanted him to leave the opponents’ half and help to ease the pressure. Suddenly, Bella Momoh’s cross-field pass from almost 50 yards found him on the right flank. “The ball gave Igbinoba strength as he was suddenly faced by two defenders and the goalkeeper. He paced the ball and beat the two defenders in quick succession and then unleashed a left-foot screamer which rested in the roof of the net. 2-0! “We were so happy that e mobbed him but the referee asked us to get back on to the pitch and continue the game. Aikhionbare said: ‘Ehen! Even if dem score one, by the time we pass and start again game go end. We no go even allow them smell our net.‘
“The game started again but less than a minute later, the referee blew the final whistle and brought the game to an end. We were World Champions for the first time in the history of the black race.”
Although the Golden Eaglets have won the title on four more occasions (1993, 2007, 2013 and 2015) with another three runners-up appearances (1987, 2001 and 2009) to become the most successful team at this level, nevertheless the class of 1985 will be remembered more because they did what was previously thought to be impossible.
You can watch the full interview by clicking on this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ITaP3BAGC9s