Not content with lifting the FIFA U-17 World Cup crown,
Nigeria have completed a virtual clean sweep of all the other
accolades up for grabs at Korea 2007. The Golden Eaglets, who took
the title after edging past Spain on penalties in the Final, boast
the adidas Golden Shoe and adidas Silver Ball winner in the shape
of seven-goal hero Macauley Chrisantus. And just to put the icing
on the Nigerian cake, fellow sharpshooter Yakubu Alfa is set to
receive the Goal of the Tournament award after his spectacular
curling effort against last-sixteen opponents Colombia took the
honours in a special vote of
Alfa produced his pinpoint strike at the Soccer Only Field in Gwangyang back in August with just minutes of normal time left on the clock and the score tied at 1-1. With extra time beckoning, the Niger Tornadoes man received a quickly played corner out on the right and advanced towards the corner of the Cafetero penalty box before wrapping his left foot around the ball and curling it into the top left-hand corner of the Colombia goal.
Quite apart from sending the Golden Eaglets' legions of fans delirious with joy and taking his team through to the quarter-finals, Alfa's A-plus strike also caught the eye of fans around the globe. With ten goals chosen by FIFA.com's editorial team to choose from, the site's discerning users gave it a top rating of 4.4 out of 5, putting Alfa just ahead of Japan's Yoichiro Kakitani, whose superb long-distance effort against Group D opponents France in Goyang merited a score of 4.3.
With the Japanese needing just a draw to advance to the knockout phase, the Cerezo Osaka forward put them on the right track just before half-time, picking up the ball just inside in his own half, advancing a few yards and catching Les Bleuets keeper Abdoulaye Keita off his line with an incredible chip from the centre circle. Unfortunately for Kakitani and Co, the French hit back with a couple of far less spectacular second-half strikes to pip them to a place in the last sixteen.
The top two were not the only long-range specials to excite the voters. Togo's Lalawele Atakora shot into third place with a score of 4.1 for his quite spectacular half-volley from well outside the box against Korea Republic. The Korean defenders thought they had done the hard work when clearing a dangerous free kick into the box. But they reckoned without the Sparrowhawks midfielder, who returned the ball with interest past a startled Seung Gyu Kim in the Korean goal. As breathtaking as it was, the No7's 25-yard bullet proved in vain, the Taeguk Warriors ultimately prevailing 2-1 to send the Togolese out.
Finishing alongside Atakora in joint third place was Ghana's Ransford Osei, who made his way onto the podium courtesy of a smart finish at the end of a superb team move against Germany in the Black Starlets' second Group F match. Receiving the ball deep in his own half from one of his central defenders, midfielder Abeiku Quansah powered down the right flank past four opponents before cutting in and sliding the ball through to Osei. The adidas Silver Shoe winner had timed his run to perfection and coolly slipped the ball through the legs of goalkeeper Fabian Giefer.
Although these four gems were the pick of the FIFA U-17 World Cup crop, the other six contenders were just as impressive in their own different ways. Two-goal candidate Dennis Dowidat of Germany, the Brazilian duo of Alex and Tales, Colombia's Christian Nazarith and Tajikistan's Fatkhullo Fatkhuloev all pushed the winners close and showed that when it comes to scoring cracking goals, youth is no impediment.