Golden Eaglets march to Nigeria’s fourth title in the FIFA Under-17 World Cup remained on course Tuesday following the team’s brilliant 4-1 crushing of Iran in the second round clash in Al Ain.
The three-time champions left no one in doubt of their intentions to cruise past the Iranians at the Khalifa Bin Zayed Stadium. They were three goals up in the first half and added the fourth in the second half. Now, the free-scoring Nigerian lads have set up a mouth watering clash with South American power house, Uruguay in the quarter final with two of its stars, Kelechi Iheanacho and Isaac Success likely to be missing in action through injuries.
Nigeria came out all guns blazing in the opening seconds. Iheanacho, who scored four goals in the opener on this very pitch, fired a vicious shot from the corner of the penalty area inside the first minute that only just flew over the bar.
It wasn’t long after that Chidiebere Nwakali raced through midfield on the end of an elegant heel flick from Zaharaddeen Bello. His shot from way out, however, also went over the goal.
The pressure was mounting on Iran, who’d been so sturdy up to this point in the competition. Nigeria were attacking up both flanks and crossing dangerously, but the storm subsided and Iran began to get some touches on the ball.
And when Nwakali tried to dribble the ball out of defence, he was stripped by Mohammad Bazaj, whose effort from a tight angle after 21 minutes was the Iranian’s first chance of the half.
All that did was make the Nigerians angry. The Eaglets were into the lead just seconds later when Musa Yahaya pulled off an outrageous move to leave his man for dead at the edge of the penalty area.
He sent in a low diagonal ball to Samuel Okon, who sliced in from a tight angle. Two minutes later it was 2-0 for the Africans. Taiwo Awoniyi, on for the injured Success Isaac, pulled the ball across the 18-yard line for Iheanacho, who dispatched his fifth goal of the tournament. It would be the impressive No10’s last action, as he pulled his hamstring shortly after and signaled for a substitute.
Captain Musa Muhammed grabbed a third goal for Nigeria five minutes from the interval, taking advantage of some slack marking to burst into the area and score to make it 3-0 at the break.
The second half lacked the total attacking sparkle of the first, but the Nigerians remained in full control. In the 78th minute, Yahaya dropped his shoulder brilliantly again – pulling out his signature move – before firing low into the corner from 25 yards. Iran managed a consolation goal six minutes from time. Substitute Ali Gholizadeh scored from the edge of the box with the Nigerian defenders suffering from a bit of understandable complacency.
13 Shots 7
7 Shots on goal 4
4 Goals Scored 1
13 Fouls Committed 23
20 Fouls Suffered 12
9 Corner kicks 0
0 Free Kicks to Goal 0
0 / 0 Penalty Kicks (Goals/Shots) 0 / 0
1 Offsides 1
0 Own Goals 0
0 Yellow cards 2
0 Second yellow card and red card 0
0 Red Cards 0
19 Actual playing time 22
47% Possession (%) 53%
Nigeria 4-1 Iran
Uruguay 4-2 Slovakia
Morocco 1-2 Ivory Coast
Argentina 3-1 Tunisia
SOURCE: Thisday Newspaper