Sunday, November 8, 2015 9:15 am
Mali-Nigeria, Vina Del Mar, kick-off 11p.m Nigerian time
Two teams from the same confederation will go toe-to-toe in the final of the FIFA U-17 World Cup for the first time in 22 years and ten editions of the tournament, after Ghana and Nigeria met in the final back in 1993. The Golden Eaglets secured the second of their four World Cup crowns with a 2-1 victory that day.
Against Mali today, there are several odds mounting against the Nigerian side which they must overcome to triumph in the mouth-watering showdown.
First Nigeria are meeting a determined and hungry Malian side. Being the first time, a Malian team will reach the final of any FIFA tournament, Coach Baye Ba’s wards want to prove a point: that when they get so near the apple, they won’t just let go.
Coach Baye expressed the hunger most graphically: “Let me tell you straight: you build up an appetite by eating,” he explained before the last four.
Mali’s U-20 team had finished third place in new Zealand some months ago and now the U-17 team had reached a final. Mali’s passage to the final has surely increased this hunger even further.
Two, While Nigeria hold a clear lead in the head-to-head record between the two nations’ senior sides with four wins, three draws and just one defeat to their name, Mali have the edge when it comes to youth football.
When hosting the FIFA U-20 World Cup in 1999, the Flying Eagles were forced to throw in the towel in the quarter-finals as the Malians beat them 3-1.
Three: The Golden Eaglets need to break two jinxes: Losing at a final outside Asia. and losing at a final after winning the previous final.
The Eaglets won in 1985 but lost in 1987, won in 1993 but lost in 2001, won in 2007 but lost in 2009. Then Eaglets won in 2013.
Will they break the jinxes tonight?
Meanwhile, the footballing world are full of anticipation of Sunday night’s cracker.
“It’s very important for African football and incredible that something like this has only happened once before,” said Nigeria’s Orji Okonkwo in eager anticipation of this continental showdown, where the record champions could become the second team to defend their title on Sunday evening after Brazil triumphed in 1997 and 1999.
Both President Muhammadu Buhari and the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) are also rallying the Golden Eaglets to create record for themselves and Nigeria by winning U-17 World Cup title for the fifth time.
General-Secretary of NFF, Mohammed Sanusi said that victory by the Eaglets in Sunday’s final of the tournament in Chile would also be a record for President Muhammadu Buhari.
Buhari will make history by receiving the trophy as a civilian president, 30 years after he received it as a military head of state, when the Eaglets won the maiden edition of the tournament in 1985 in China.
*Sourced from fifa.com and NAN