Individually brilliant and collectively formidable, champions Nigeria proved an unstoppable force at the FIFA U-17 World Cup United Arab Emirates 2013, their dominance being underscored when the time came to recognise the tournament’s leading performers.
The Golden Eaglets’ attacking midfielder Kelechi Iheanacho emerged as the competition’s outstanding player, emulating the likes of Cesc Fabregas, Landon Donovan and Toni Kroos before him in making off with the adidas Golden Ball, while also pocketing the adidas Silver Boot for good measure. The Nigerians’ tall goalkeeper Dele Alampasu also got in on the act, while the African side, who featured large on the shortlists drawn up by FIFA’s Technical Study Group, also made off with the Fair Play award.
FIFA.com reveals who won what as the curtain came down on UAE 2013.
adidas Golden Ball: Kelechi Iheanacho (Nigeria)The rampaging No10 tormented every defence he came up against and made the most stunning of entrances by helping himself to four goals against Mexico in his side’s group opener. The poacher then showed he could provide too, laying on no fewer than seven assists for his team-mates, all this while taking his personal goal tally to six, enough to secure him the adidas Silver Bootas the competition’s second-highest goalscorer. In total he had a direct hand in exactly half of the 26 goals the Golden Eaglets scored in the UAE.
adidas Silver Ball: Nathan (Brazil)
Blessed with a great right foot, the Atletico Paranaense midfielder bade farewell to UAE 2013 in the quarter-finals, but had already done enough by that time to show he was worthy of recognition, thanks in part to his mazy running, which caused opposing defenders all sorts of problems. There is more to Nathan’s game than elusive dribbling, however, as he showed by scoring five goals and serving up as many assists in his side’s five outings, a quite outstanding return.
adidas Bronze Ball: Ivan Ochoa (Mexico)
The Pachuca striker played a decisive part in El Tri’s run to the final, in which they showed plenty of spirit and character, not least in disposing of Brazil and then Argentina in the knockout rounds. Ochoa was Mexico’s match-winner against La Albiceleste, scoring an opportunistic first-half brace to take his tournament haul to four and prove his worth in a side that made the most of its repertoire of set-piece routines.
adidas Golden Boot: Valmir Berisha (Sweden)
The Albanian-born Swedish striker is an out-and-out penalty box predator, ready to pounce at any stage of the game, as he proved in grabbing a hat-trick in the match for third place against Argentina. As well as ensuring the tournament newcomers finished on the podium, that treble took the skilful yet deadly Berisha’s goal tally to seven, putting him top of the UAE 2013 scoring charts.
adidas Bronze Boot: Boschilia (Brazil)
As well as serving up three assists, the dynamic Seleção midfielder struck six goals in just four matches, three fewer than Berisha and Iheanacho played in. After announcing himself in the group phase alongside Nathan, the Sao Paulo man sat out the quarter-final tie against Mexico through suspension. How his side missed him.
adidas Golden Glove: Dele Alampasu (Nigeria)
It is just as well for such a resolutely attack-minded side as Nigeria that they can count on someone like Alampasu between the posts. The giant custodian had an outstanding three weeks and showed his many qualities in an impeccable display in the final. Dealing calmly with everything the Mexicans had to throw at him, the impressive shot-stopper used his height to cut out crosses and his agility to pull off a series of sharp saves.
FIFA Fair Play award: Nigeria
The champions were rightly recognised for their sportsmanship and infectious approach to the game. Their enthusiastic goal celebrations, complete with pumping arms and index fingers pointing skywards, caught the imagination and were even copied by Sweden’s players as they saluted the predominantly Nigerian crowd at the Mohammad Bin Zayed Stadium after their victory over Argentina.