Nigeria crashed out of the global tournament in surprising fashion following a crippling 3-1 defeat to the Netherlands early on Wednesday morning.
The Golden Eaglets are undoubtedly the most successful team at the FIFA U17 World Cup, and the reasons are not so farfetched, Soccernet.ng reports.
No country has won the U17 World Cup more times than Nigeria, with the country’s cadet team having lifted the trophy in the years 1985, 1993, 2007, 2013, and 2015. That’s two more than any other country in the world.
And having earned an additional three silver medals in 1987, 2001 and 2009, no country can boast of winning more U17 World Cup medals than Nigeria. Only Brazil comes close with 7 medals.
Nigeria’s record in the U17 World Cup is always a delight to read. In only 11 previous appearances, the African side had amassed 5 Gold medals, 3 Silver medals, 4 Golden Balls (Philip Osundu, Sani Emmanuel, Kelechi Iheanacho, and Kelechi Nwakali), 3 Golden Boots, 1 Golden Glove, 4 Fair Play Awards, 26 goals in a single competition (2013), and tournament’s highest ever goal scorer – Victor Osimhen (ten goals).
The hunt for a record sixth world title began on a pleasant note with coach Manu Garba’s boys forcing a 4-2 comeback victory down the throat of Hungary. A similar trick was repeated in a 3-2 come-from-behind win over Ecuador days after.
And it appeared as though another free-scoring Nigeria side was destined to rule the world yet again. Especially with the history books revealing that every time the Golden Eaglets had won their first two matches of an U-17 World Cup tournament, they went on to reach the final after replicating same feat in 1993, 2001, 2007 and 2015.
But that was as far as the good times lasted. Australia ambushed the Eaglets in the last group game and sent the highflying Nigerians crashing back down to earth with a well-deserved 2-1 win.
It was the very first time that the Aussies would defeat Nigeria in the U17 World Cup after 7 attempts, with Nigeria triumphing in each of the previous 6 meetings.
It was also the very first time that the Golden Eaglets had conceded 6 goals in the group stage of an U17 World Cup.
The defensive frailties were obvious but not much improvement was noticed when Netherlands, one of the lucky knockout stage qualifiers, faced the Eaglets.
Against the young Oranjes, the Golden Eaglets conceded 2 goals in the first 15 minutes of an U-17 World Cup match for the first time in the history of the competition.
And by the time the final whistle was blown, Netherlands’ Sontje Hansen had ruffled the Nigeria net thrice to become the first ever player to score a hat-trick against Nigeria at the U17 World Cup.
The 3-1 defeat to the Dutch side also marked the first time that a Nigeria teen team would lose 2 consecutive matches at the U17 World Cup and the first time the Golden Eaglets had lost 2 matches in a single edition of the World Cup.
It was an ignominious way to exit a tournament that promised so much but delivered so little.
*All facts provided by Opta Nigeria.