Eagles don’t flock. But not Emmanuel Amuneke’s boys at the FIFA Under 17 World Cup holding at Chile. These ones field one of the youngest squads; play with a deadly combination of energy, appetite and intellect. With the sharpest attack edge in the tournament, the most painstaking midfield, an amazingly brave and athletic goalie, a shaky defence unit notwithstanding, this Nigerian Golden Eaglets prove the danger when Eagles flock.
Soccer is like a religion in Nigeria. And it wouldn’t be out of place to say that the English Premier league only began to gain significant followership in Nigeria when Nigerians ran out of patience for the national teams and local clubs following decay in the administration of the game in the country. In the last decade and more, Nigerians have been deprived the joy of watching their national teams dominate the world. Hence, publicity for Chile 2015 in Nigeria was met with sad indifference. The people no longer invest expectation, so they don’t reap frustration.
But Amuneke’s Golden Eaglets have used their last 5 games to announce eye-catching prospect. Although the junior teams have been outperforming their more senior counterparts, the performance has not been with such aplomb as this present Eaglets display.
Revelations of this tournament
Football scouts, teammates, the VIP box must be finding Victor Osimhen a delight to watch; perhaps opposition team coaches as well. He has scored 6 goals since arriving Chile, scoring in every game since the pre-tournament friendly. And he doesn’t just score goals; he wows you with each one, employing impressive imagination in his play. The gangly 16 year old is like Kanu Nwankwo with update; a pre-Arsenal-career Emmanuel Adebayor with upgrade in elegance.
Vincent Enyeama’s Brother
Nigeria doesn’t have to worry over the departure of legend Vincent Enyeama any longer; Akpan Udo has shown he is a long-term replacement for the goalie. He is vocal, athletic, savvy and brave. And he hails from the same tribe as the Lille first-choice keeper – same state (Akwa Ibom), same district.
The Next Footballing Essien of Africa
A slight injury to Edidiong Essien prevented him from featuring earlier on in the World Cup. He however had a chance to confirm what counts of scouts love him for in the 6-0 drumming of Australia, bagging what the Fox Soccer commentator tagged a “brilliant header”. He came on halfway into the 2nd half as the Nigerian midfield tottered overwhelmed by fluid, stepped-up Australian play. Few minutes into his arrival, the game changed; the midfield loosened up and the Eaglets, who already had an early 2-0, were released to score their 3rd goal and to move on from there. Essien’s was the 5th goal. Ghanaians and Akwa Ibomites alike took to social media to lay claim to this very ‘Essien’ – the Ghanaians would be more energetic if they knew Edidiong’s middle and surname are Michael Essien.
And then there is Samuel Chukwueze, the left-footed quick-feet attacking midfielder who has scored 3 goals in the competition so far; and whose speed and dribbling tormented the Chilean defence silencing their noisy home crowd in their 2nd group game. Nwakali, the captain, has also shown flashes of mental stability, leadership and passing aptitude. Bamgboye, Lazarus, Anumudu and Kingsley Michael… are a joy to watch as well.
These individuals are some of the most talented in the Cup – those who follow consistently can testify to that. What is however more fascinating than their individual talents is their teamwork. Their youth age occasionally surfaces in indecisiveness, lack of concentration and shortage of composure – these are the attributes that come with age – but the boys make up for such lapses with their game of joint-effort.
The world will henceforth pay more attention to these kids who are, meanwhile, the defending champions.