Osimhen, Nigeria are big winners
With an outstanding team packed with talented players, Nigeria successfully defended their crown at the FIFA U-17 World Cup Chile 2015. Furthermore, the West Africans took centre stage when it came to the individual honours too.
Top scorer Victor Osimhen and captain Kelechi Nwakali both made their mark on the competition, and after winning the adidas Golden Ball as the tournament’s best player, the latter followed in the footsteps of Cesc Fabregas and Toni Kroos, who are now key members of the senior sides with their respective national teams. Osimhen set a new U-17 World Cup goalscoring record, while Mali’s Samuel Diarra and Ecuador’s example of Fair Play were also recognised in the honour’s list established and overseen by FIFA’s Technical Study Group (TSG).
Read on to find out who else is travelling home with extra silverware in their luggage.
ADIDAS Golden Ball: Kelechi Nwakali (Nigeria) The captain of the Golden Eaglets was included in Nigeria’s provisional squad ahead of the 2013 edition, but was not named in the final party that went on to win the title. Here, however, the playmaker was the first to lift the trophy aloft. Coach Emmanuel Amuneke’s right-hand man out on the pitch, he shouldered responsibility and kept a cool head in difficult moments. He scored three goals, including two penalties, and provided a further three assists, a haul that also brought him the adidas Bronze Boot.
Adidas Silver Ball: Victor Osimhen (Nigeria)
Even before the tournament kicked off in Chile, Osimhen was touted as a favourite to win the adidas Golden Ball, having scored 39 goals in 71 outings for his country at that point, and finished as top scorer at the U-17 African Championship in March. The striker, who names Côte d’Ivoire forward Didier Drogba as his role model, more than lived up to expectations in Chile after finding the net in all seven games at the competition. Osimhen put his side 1-0 up on four occasions and his effort in the final – his tenth goal overall – set a new tournament record, beating the previous best-mark set by Côte d’Ivoire’s Souleymane Coulibaly in 2011 and France’s Florent Sinama Pongolle in 2001. Osimhen duly finished as top scorer in South America, and would doubtless not begrudge his team captain, of all players, pipping him to what would have been a second golden award.
Adidas Bronze Ball: Aly Malle (Mali) Alongside Boubacar Traore, Sekou Koita and Sidiki Maiga, Malle formed part of an impressive attacking line-up that put opponents under pressure right from the off. Operating as a nominal striker, the No9 often dropped deep to pick up the ball and brought his team-mates into the game on countless occasions.
Adidas Golden Boot: Victor Osimhen (Nigeria/10 goals, 2 assists) Adidas Silver Boot: Johannes Eggestein (Germany/4 goals, 0 assists) Eggestein’s best performances for Germany came in the group stage, where he found the target four times in three matches to go joint-top of the scorers’ chart alongside Osimhen after the first phase of the tournament. Although the striker, who plays for Bundesliga club Werder Bremen, was unable to add to his tally after Germany were eliminated by Croatia in the Round of 16, he still did enough to win the adidas Silver Boot. “My strengths are my ability to anticipate a pass and my versatility,” Eggestein said in an interview with FIFA.com. His self-analysis is backed up by the statistics: he scored twice with his left foot, once with his right and once with his head.
Adidas Bronze Boot: Kelechi Nwakali (Nigeria/3 goals, 3 assists) Adidas Golden Glove: Samuel Diarra (Mali) For the fourth time in tournament history, the best goalkeeper of the finals was presented with an award. Following Benjamin Siegrist (Switzerland, 2009), Jonathan Cubero (Uruguay, 2011) and Dele Alampasu (Nigeria, 2013), this time the winner was Samuel Diarra, who reached the final with African champions Mali and routinely frustrated opposition strikers with some spectacular saves. The custodian dazzled in South America with his incredible reflexes and command of his penalty area, while he conceded fewer goals than any other goalkeeper at these finals, letting in just four in seven games.
FIFA Fair Play Award: Ecuador In 1995 Ecuador posted their best achievement at an U-17 World Cup by reaching the quarter-finals on home soil. Now, 20 years on, the latest crop of players equalled that feat in Chile, and did so while winning over the hearts of the fans. In their five games at the tournament, the South Americans only committed 69 fouls, collected just four yellow cards and had one sending off for a second bookable offence, making coach Jose Rodriguez’s charges worthy winners of the FIFA Fair Play Award. Alongside a trophy, medals and a certificate, the Ecuadorian FA will also receive prize money of $10,000 USD, which can only be used for football equipment for youth teams.
• Culled from FIFA.COM