Nigeria’s Golden Eaglets have been a major competitor at the CAF U17 Africa Cup of Nations since the tournament took the shape of its current format in 1995.
The Eaglets have scooped the title twice and produced some of the best young players on the continent.
In this Soccernet.ng report, we take a closer look at the top five Golden Eaglets players ever to grace the tournament.
Shaibu was the star of the show at the 2001 U17 AFCON in Seychelles. The talented striker scored crucial goals to help Nigeria outclass Ethiopia (4-1), overpower Mozambique (3-0), and draw Guinea (2-2) in the group stages.
Nigeria edged Mali on penalties in the semifinals before defeating Burkina Faso 3-0 in the final to lift their first continental trophy. Shaibu’s performances earned him the Golden Ball award for the tournament’s best player.
Opabunmi was part of that same Golden Eaglets team that won the 2001 U17 AFCON in Seychelles.
Although Shaibu was the star of the tournament, Opabunmi was also a key player for Nigeria, providing vital assists and scoring important goals.
Opabunmi’s standout moment came in the final against Burkina Faso, where he scored Nigeria’s third goal to seal the victory.
Despite his impressive performances at the Afcon and later at the U17 World Cup, where he scored five goals, Opabunmi never quite fulfilled his potential.
Still, he will always be remembered as one of Nigeria’s finest U17 players.
Iheanacho was a key player for the Golden Eaglets in the 2013 U17 AFCON in Morocco. He finished the tournament as the top scorer with seven goals.
Nigeria scored a record 13 goals in the group stages, with Iheanacho and Isaac Success accounting for eight of them. Both players hit the target in the 4-2 triumph over Tunisia in the semifinals, but Nigeria lost to Ivory Coast on penalties in the final.
Iheanacho’s brilliance powered Nigeria to the title at the FIFA U17 World Cup later that year, where he was named the tournament’s best player.
Nwakali was one of the standout players for the Golden Eaglets at the 2015 U17 AFCON.
The talented midfielder scored in each of Nigeria’s three group games, helping the team to qualify for the semifinals.
The teenager’s goals, however, dried off in the knockout rounds as Nigeria failed to flourish.
Nwakali’s best was, however, reserved for the U17 World Cup in Chile, where he was named the tournament’s best player, thanks to his impressive performances throughout the competition as Nigeria soared to glory.
Osimhen was a shining light for the Golden Eaglets at the 2015 U17 AFCON in Niger, finishing as the tournament’s top scorer with four goals.
He scored a brace against Patson Daka’s Zambia and also found the back of the net against Guinea and Niger.
Despite his efforts, Nigeria could only manage a fourth-place finish.
However, Osimhen’s form continued at the U17 World Cup in Chile later that year, where he scored a record ten goals to lead Nigeria to their fifth title. Osimhen’s performances earned him the tournament’s Golden Boot and Silver Ball awards.
In conclusion, the Golden Eaglets have produced some of the best young players in African football, and the U17 AFCON has been a breeding ground for these talents. The five players mentioned above have all left their mark on the tournament and will be remembered as some of the best Golden Eaglets players ever to grace the competition.