The Golden Eaglets entered Sunday’s opening match against Tanzania at the Africa U-17 Championship with a slight tinge of envy over the pledge of brand new cars given their opponents by their country’s government.
While there was no comment from Nigerian authorities to motivate the Eaglets for the early afternoon kick-off in Dar-Es-Salaam, strong feelers indicated that Tanzania’s squad were promised a car each if they qualify for the FIFA U17 World Cup.
That provided a huge talking point and source of motivation for the hosts, as they battled Nigeria toe-to-toe at National Stadium, Dar-Es-Salaam, with former Super Eagles winger, Emmanuel Amuneke joining in dishing out technical tips aimed at ensuring a winning start to the event.
However, the Eaglets got a huge boost for their opening match, as all 21 players in the squad passed the mandatory Magnetic Resonance imaging (MRI) tests, while their opponents had two of their lads dropped for failing the age-check scans.
Nigeria had one step ahead of Tanzania two days before the big opener in Dar-Es-Salaam, as all Manu Garba’s boys scaled the hurdle conducted on Friday morning before the start of training, while Tanzania went into the opener with a a depleted squad, as competition rules stipulate that their dropped players cannot be replaced.
Joining the Eaglets with full squads for the championship are Senegal, Uganda, Angola and Morocco, but Cameroon were the worst hit with ejections, as three of their players failed the MRI tests, while Guinea have one player missing out on eligibility for the competition.
On match day, Eaglets’ coach, Manu Garba opted against all forecasts in his starting line-up for the match, as he put the two foreign-based players in his squad on the bench from the start.
Rather than start Bournemouth of England kid, Joseph Oluwabusola in goal, Garba settled for Suleman Shaibu, while also leaving out Chelsea youth team midfielder, Adrian Akande from the starting eleven as well.
The back-four had Shedrack Tanko, Ogaga Oduko, David Ishaya and Clement Ikenna, while the midfield was built round Olatomi Alfred Olaniyan and most valuable player of the zonal championship qualifiers, Samson Tijani, with the top scorer, Olakunle Olusegun as top striker.
The Eaglets went into their battle with against The Serengeti Boys in high spirits, knowing they already had one step ahead of their foes, but the hosts were not ready to give up without a fight.
The opening match turned into a first half blitz-kieg, with four goals to show between both sides in just 45 minutes, as Tanzania’s teenagers fought gallantly, but the five-time FIFA U-17 World Cup winners showed the cutting edge they have in terms of experience and tradition.
Alfred Olatomi opened scoring in the 20th minute, the hosts equalized just 60 seconds later, before Wisdom Ubani restored Nigeria’s lead in the 31st, and Akin Amoo made it three in the 36th.