The 18th edition of the FIFA U17 World Cup will kick off in Brazil today, with Nigeria’s Golden Eaglets gunning for their record sixth title at the tournament.
The Manu Garba-tutored side will flag off their campaign later tonight when they take on Hungary in the opening match of Group B, at the Estadio Olimpico in Goiania (Olympic Stadium), as from 9pm Nigerian time.
It will be first time the Golden Eaglets would meet the Hungarian cadet team since both sides last met at the maiden edition of the tournament in China, in 1985. The Nduka Ugbade-led Golden Eaglets had triumphed over their Hungarian counterparts 3-1 in the quarterfinals and went all the way to lift the trophy, then known as FIFA/KODAK U-16 Championship.
Ahead of tonight’s opening game, the Golden Eaglets, who have been fine-tuning their strategies in Brazil in the last one week, played three friendly matches, losing two to the youth team of Sao Paulo FC of Brazil and the Japanese U17 side, and winning one against the Korean U17 team.
Regardless, coach Garba is confident that his charges will deliver tonight against Hungary and go all the way to clinch their sixth world title.
“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.
“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.
Garba was head coach when the Golden Eaglets clinched victory in the United Arab Emirates in 2013, and served as Yemi Tella’s assistant in 2007 when Nigeria won the tournament for the third time.
One of the stars to watch out for at the championship is Golden Eaglets forward, Peter Olawale, who wears jersey number 12. The 16-year-old striker earned a place in the squad despite not featuring in the African qualifiers. His pace, skills and powerful presence in the air has earned him the nickname ‘Little Ronaldo’. He is expected to provide goals and creativity.
Other notable players expected to come to the party tonight are captain Samson Tijani and the duo of goalkeepers Joseph Oluwabusola and Daniel Jinadu who ply their trades with Bournemouth and West Ham United in the English Premier League.