The only word to describe Nigeria's past in the FIFA U-17 World Cup is glorious. No other country has won the tournament as often as the Golden Eaglets (four times) and only Brazil can match their seven semi-final appearances. Remarkably, the team has made it through to the decider every time they advanced to the last four. The west Africans won the inaugural competition in China PR in 1985 and added titles in 1993, 2007 and last time out. They lost the 1987, 2001 and 2009 finals. The only time they qualified for the global event but failed to progress out of the group stage was in 2003, when they were denied a place in the last eight by the drawing of lots after finishing equal on points, goals and goal difference with Costa Rica.
As overwhelming pre-tournament favourites the Golden Eaglets had an easy passage into the last four at the African championships, thereby booking their place in Chile 2015. Victories over hosts Niger (2-0) and Zambia (3-1) and a 1-1 draw against Guinea saw them top the group. However, in the semi-finals, the west Africans were stunned by an impressive South African team, who grabbed a first-half goal and then held on to their win. And though Nigeria lost the play-off for third place against Guinea 3-1, coach Emmanuel Amuneke said they had achieved their objective and would expect to be at their best in the world finals.
Surprisingly, the Golden Eaglets have been more successful on the global stage than in Africa. It is not something that surprises Amuneke, who says that the conditions at the World Cup are more suitable to his side but has naturally been focused on hsi young team. ”For us to be champions of the world, we have to prepare very well. We have been trying to correct some of the mistakes and lapses we noticed in Niger.”