Barely a month to their opening match against USA at the 2015 FIFA U-17 World Cup in Chile, Nigeria finished third at an invitational dubbed “Continental Cup International Youth (U-17) Football Tournament” in Suwon, South Korea.
The four-nation tournament was held from 2-6 September 2015 in Suwon with South Korea, Croatia and Brazil as the other participants, in what served as a prelude for the World Cup next month.
Brazil finished on top of the pack with six points while Croatia edged Nigeria via superior goals after either side garnered four points. Hosts Korea followed in that order with two points.
The Golden Eaglets drew 1-1 with the host nation, beat Brazil 2-1 before succumbing to a 3-2 loss to Croatia.
“The objectives of going for the four-nation tournament in Suwon was achieved and we were impressed with the players though there is room for improvement,” Nigeria U-17 trainer, Emmanuel Amuneke told cafonline.com
“It was an opportunity to test our new players and the fact that the competition was interesting because it was amongst four teams that have qualified for the World Cup. it gave an idea about what to expect at the World Cup,” the former CAF African Footballer of the Year added.
Nigeria, four-time world champions at the cadet level with the last success in 2013 in the United Arab Emirates, failed to impress at the continental championship last February in Niger, finishing a disappointing fourth behind Mali, South Africa and Guinea.
The team has been undergoing some restructuring ahead of the global championship and only six players from the squad that featured in Niger made the trip to Suwon.
Amuneke is upbeat that his wards would be a strong contender in Chile after overcoming ‘the fear factor’ as evident in their games during the Asian tourney.
“It was good we went to Suwon because the players were able to see in practical terms all what we have been telling them back home. I think there is a self-belief in the players now because they showed quality and hardly will you know that majority were participating in a tournament of that magnitude for the first time,” he said.
According to Amuneke, the Eaglets are scheduled to fine-tune their preparations in Argentina before emplaning for Chile. The West Africans are housed in Group A alongside hosts Chile, Croatia and USA.
– 2 September 2015: South Korea 1-1 Nigeria; Brazil 2-1 Croatia
– 4 September 2015: Nigeria 2-1 Brazil; South Korea 2-2 Croatia
– 6 September 2015: Brazil 2-0 South Korea; Nigeria 2-3 Croatia
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