On the eve of the final Group D matches, few would bet against Nigeria remaining perched in top spot come Saturday evening. Then again, anything is possible in football. Just take Haiti, who are still on course for an unprecedented, not to say miraculous, surge into the Round of 16, after coming from behind to snatch a well-earned draw with France. This precious point has not only instilled their whole nation with a sense of pride, it has also left the Caribbean dreamers with an outside chance of qualification. First however, they must overcome the champions of Africa, a mission which France and Japan have already failed to accomplish.
Two matches, two wins. So far so perfect for the Golden Eaglets, who rule the roost in Group D following their 2-1 victory against France and a 3-0 win over Japan. Eager to bag maximum points and sustain their momentum, Nigeria are intent on making it three wins out of three. Under these circumstances, the final group match against Haiti would seem to be a formality. Nevertheless, Nigeria would be wise not to underestimate their opponents, who have shown glimpses of greatness in their first two matches. Edged out in a close tussle against Japan, they came close to winning their encounter with France. As their appetite for FIFA U-17 World Cup success grows, Haiti would love to take a chunk out of big cheeses Nigeria before breaking out the bubbly to toast their qualification.
Three Nigerian players and five Haitian players picked up yellow cards in the previous two matches, although no-one is suspended for this encounter. With his young charges already qualified, Yemi Tella could be tempted to rotate his squad and rest key players.
This will be the first time the two nations have crossed paths on the football pitch at any age level. Nigeria are set to break new ground on Saturday when they make the 150th appearance by an African team in FIFA U-17 World Cup history.
"Even though we're already qualified, we'll play this match to win. We are here for the title, so every victory takes us one step closer and motivates us still further." Yemi Tella, Nigeria head coach
"We're still in with a chance of qualification, even if we'll have our work cut out against Nigeria. Physically and technically, they're stronger than us in theory but out there on the pitch, anything is possible." Jean-Yves Labaze, Haiti head coach