Again Nigeria fails transition test, as Germany shoots down Flying Eagles

Germany’s Levin Oeztunali celebrates his match winner against Nigeria…yesterday.                  PHOTO: FIFA

Germany’s Levin Oeztunali celebrates his match winner against Nigeria…yesterday. PHOTO: FIFA

This team was expected to be the exception among the many former winners of the FIFA U-17 World Cup, but as has been the case since 1987, Coach Manu Garba’s boys yesterday failed to break the jinx.

When Garba took the current class of the Flying Eagles to victory at the UAE 2013 U-17 World Cup, not a few Nigerians saw in the team the answer to the country’s perennial inability to graduate its cadet heroes to intermediate champions and then full internationals.

The pattern was set in 1987 when the Flying Eagles were beaten blue and black at the Chile U-20 Championship by teams they had destroyed at the maiden FIFA U-17 Championship in China two years earlier.

The pattern continued even in 2009 when the Chrisantus Macaulay and his mates, who won the U-17 World Cup in South Korea two years earlier, could not go past the quarterfinal of the intermediate championship.

Yesterday in Christ Church, New Zealand, the jinx continued, with Germany teaching Nigerians that it does not pay to be over enthusiastic about victory before any competition. They beat the Flying Eagles 1-0 in their second round game.

The result was actually kind to the Nigerians because based on the flow of the game, 1-0 gave a wrong impression of the German’s dominance.

In the first 15 minutes, the Germans would have scored as many goals as they wanted if they had been just a little more composed in front of goal. But they got their match winner in the 19th minute when Levin Oeztunali struck home from inside the box after a great work by the dangerous March Stendera.

Nigeria rallied briefly in the second half, but they failed to create any clear-cut chance, leaving goalkeeper Marvin Schwaebe to be virtually on holidays.

Reacting to his team’s ouster from the Flying Eagles have learnt a lot from the competition, while confessing that “the level at the under-20s is far higher than at the under-17s, and Germany are a very tough and highly tactical team. “Our players lost concentration at the crucial moment and this gave the Germans a chance to score.”

Reacting to the Flying Eagles ouster, the Nigeria Football Federation President, Amaju Melvin Pinnick, says the boys were not disgraced.

“When things turn out this way, we look at the positives. Which is why I will call on us all to congratulate this set of players because they certainly made us proud.

“They played with finesse and grace; real potential for the future of our game. The crowd loved them at the two venues where they played, and the unity in the team showed in the way they conducted themselves all through the tournament.”

Pinnick was philosophical about yesterday’s 0-1 defeat by a compact Germany team that saw the Flying Eagles eliminated in Christchurch.

“Football is about winning; but winning has different dimensions. We may not have won today, but we have won a battle to take our desired dream one step further. Our dream being, to not just win matches and trophies, but to develop a sustainable football culture for Nigeria.

“With the adoption of the scheme where our 2013 U-17 World Cup winners were elevated almost en bloc to become our U-20 team, we have seen enough to tell us that this same U-20 group that played and lost today, is good enough to become the future of our football.”

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