Whoever comes out on top when Switzerland face Nigeria on Sunday, the winners of the FIFA U-17 World Cup 2009 are destined for a proud place in the history books. The European side have reached the showpiece match in their maiden appearance in the competition and victory would represent the country’s first global title, while Nigeria can become the most successful team ever at this level. Currently tied with Brazil on three crowns apiece, the hosts hope to surge out in front with their fourth success.
It may be a surprise but it is certainly no accident to see Switzerland just one step away from glory. Like their fellow competition newcomers, the Swiss were expected to head home early after finding the going tough, especially after they were drawn alongside Brazil, Mexico and Japan in the group stage. Dany Ryser's charges responded with wins over all three prestigious opponents and continued to down more fancied teams one by one, with Germany and then Italy unable to cope with their enthusiasm and solidity. Now, the Nati head into the final in excellent shape, having triumphed with relative ease over a Colombia side quickly reduced to ten men in the previous round.
The Golden Eaglets clearly face a tough test if they are to retain their title, but that will not worry them unduly. Since their fantastic comeback to draw 3-3 with Germany in their opening match, the home side have swept aside every obstacle before them, thanks to a team boasting players who can create danger in every position.
For the Swiss, the blossoming partnership between Nassim Ben Khalifa and Haris Seferovic could prove vital to the outcome, while Nigeria will again look to midfield orchestrator Stanley Okoro to pull the strings, knowing they can also call upon supersub Sani Emmanuel if needed.
13 - Nigeria are unbeaten in their last 13 FIFA U-17 World Cup outings, their last setback having come against Argentina in Finland on 19 August 2003. The Golden Eaglets have also reached the final on five previous occasions, winning at Korea 2007, Japan 1993 and China PR 1985 and losing at Trinidad and Tobago 2001 and Canada 1987.
"We’re in great form. If we continue to train and play every day as we've been doing up until now, we are almost unbeatable. Now that we're in the final, we'll do everything we can to go home with the trophy." Haris Seferovic, Switzerland striker
"Everyone has seen that Switzerland have some serious qualities, so we'll have to give everything one more time to win. We've worked very hard to be able to defend our title and win a second consecutive World Cup. We're going to do everything we can to keep our trophy two more years." John Obuh, Nigeria coach