Football is like a religion in Nigeria and over the years, the country has achieved decent level of success in the round leather game. While the senior national team haven’t had it good at FIFA World Cup, the cadet team have turned the under16, now 17 World Cup, to its birth-right having won it a record five times. Players such as Nduka Ugbade, Kanu Nwankwo, Wilson Oruma, Haruna Lukaman, Kelechi Iheanacho, Victor Osimhen and a host of other players, have all won the tournament. This narrative examines how Nigeria won the first FIFA under-16 World Cup which was held in China.
In was the first edition of the tournament and Nigeria, led by Sebastian Brodrick-Imasuen, were in group C alongside Saudi Arabia, Costa-Rica and Italy. The Golden Eaglets began their campaign against Italy at the Dalian Peoples Stadium. It was a tough match as both sides sized each other up for the first sixty minutes. The deadlock was broken in the 67th by Billa Momoh who scored the only goal of the game as it ended 1-0 in favour of Nigeria.
Nigeria faced Saudi Arabia in their second game. The Saudi side, who thrashed Costa Rica 4-1 in their first game were full of confidence as they took on Nigeria. It was a keenly contested match as both sides tried to find the winner but it eventually ended goalless with Saudi Arabia topping the group based on goal difference. The Golden Eaglets won their third game as they Costa Rica 3-0. Victor Igbinoba, Billa Momoh and Joseph Babatunde were all on the score sheet. Two wins and a draw, the Golden Eaglet finished second on the group with five points. (A win as at that time equals 2 points)
Billa Momoh continued his brilliant goal scoring form into the knock out stage as the forward bagged a brace in a 3-1 victory over Hungary at the Hongkou Stadium. Victor Igbinoba scored the other goal as Nigeria booked their place in the semi-finals.
One of two African teams was destined to play in the final of the maiden edition of tournament as Nigeria squared up against Guinea in the semi-finals. Guinea defeated Australia 4-2 on penalties in the quarter finals. The Golden Eaglet knew they were up against a very tough side, consequently making it a difficult match. It ended 1-1 after extra time but Nigeria won 4-2 on penalties.
The Workers Stadium in Beijing was packed to the rafters as two of the best sides in the tournament; West Germany and Nigeria squared up in front of eighty thousand fans. Jonathan Akpoborie unsettled the nerves of the Germans with an early goal in the fourth minute. The Germans did put up a good fight as they searched for the equalizer but Victor Igbinoba had other ideas as he doubled Nigeria’s lead in the 79th minute. The match ended 2-0 – Nigeria winning the maiden edition of the tournament.