Nigeria battles Australia for quarterfinal ticket
Ordinarily, a game between Nigeria and Australia at any level is not expected to pose much problems for the Africans. And when it comes to the FIFA Under-17 World Cup, there is no similarity in the two sides as the Golden Eaglets hold the record number of titles, while the Aussies have not gone past the quarterfinal stage.
In five previous meetings at the cadet World Cup, the Golden Eaglets have won all, scoring 12 goals along the way while conceding just two.
The last time the teams met in 2003, Nigeria defeated the Joeys 2-1 and so should have an easy ride over the team from down under. But past records may not mean anything today because the Australians have shown that they can ruffle some feathers no matter their opponents’ pedigree.
In their three games in Chile so far, the Aussies lost 1-4 to Germany, held former champions, Mexico, to a goalless draw before beating football powerhouse, Argentina, 2-1, to third second in Group C.
In Jackson Bandiera, Nicolas Panetta, Duro Dragicevic and Charlie Devereux, Coach Tony Vidmar has boys, who can capitalise on any mistake by the Golden Eaglets to spoil Nigeria’s dream of retaining the title it won two years.
“I had no doubts in my team, but I think no one expected Australia to get four points in this group. Probably there were some other people in Australia thinking the same, but as I said before the beginning of the tournament, we have a lot of faith.
“We have a lot of players who can rise to the occasion and step it up. So bring on Nigeria,” Vidmar told the media ahead of today’s game.
However, in Emmanuel Amuneke’s Golden Eaglets, Vidmar’s boys will face a team determined to erase the nightmare that was their last group game, a loss to Croatia.
Nigeria was tipped by all the pundits to beat Croatia, but the Eastern Europeans shocked the Golden Eaglets 2-1, a result that has questioned Amuneke’s ability to retain the trophy won by Manu Garba in the UAE two years ago.
Amuneke, though, is undaunted by that result. He says his boys were complacent in the last game, adding that all the ‘foolishness’ has been exorcised from them.
“We respect Australia, but our mission is to win the trophy. So, we are prepared and ready to beat them.
“The boys know that they have not won anything yet, so they are ready to die to win this championship,” Amuneke told the press in Chile yesterday.
Meanwhile, former Golden Eaglets coach, John Obuh, has advised the Golden Eaglets to remain steadfast and resilient as they luck horns with Australia today.
Obuh opines that the boys were defeated by Croatia because they were overconfident after winning their first two games.
He believes, however, that the defeat by Croatia will spur the Eaglets to step up their game and play like wounded lions in the remaining games of the tournament.