The 2019 FIFA U-17 World Cup ongoing in Brazil has entered its knockout phase and Nigeria will be battling it out against Netherlands for a place in the quarter-final.
The match will be played at midnight Nigerian time today.
While the Golden Eaglets finished as table toppers in Group B, their European opponents qualified as one of the best losers in the preliminary stage.
Though the first round finish puts Nigeria as the firm favourite for the quarter-final ticket, the susceptible nature of the Golden Eaglets’ defence that has shipped in at least two goals in every match allows for worry.
Coach Manu Garba’s boys had to come back from behind to win their first two games but they ran out of steam in their last group game; losing 2-1 to Australia.
The Golden Eaglets captain, Samson Tijani, who scored Nigeria’s first and last goals of a 4-2 victory against Hungary, believes the never-say-die attitude of him and his teammates has propelled them thus far.
“We don’t relent,” Tijani told FIFA.com of his team’s proclivity for late rallies. “We don’t give up easily. We force ourselves to keep pushing until we get the win.”
Ahead of the Round of 16 tie, Golden Eaglets coach Manu Garba believes that when it comes to this competition (U-17), Nigeria are special.
Indeed, the Golden Eaglets are the most successful teamp in the world when it comes to this competition; winning an astonishing five titles including the first-ever in 1985.
“The will to win every game is part of the DNA of every Nigerian team and my team here in Brazil is no exception,” Garba said.
Now waith no margin for errors, Nigeria have their work well cut out as they are drawn against a formidable opponent in the Round of 16.
The Netherlands lost their first two matches in Brazil by a combined score of 6-1. Down but far from out, the European champions redeemed themselves and avoided an early exit as they pummeled USA 4-0 in their final group fixture to burst through.
The Dutch will be coming off their best performance of the tournament when the two sides meet yesterday.
Nigeria, meanwhile, fell 2-1 to Australia in their Group B closer. The faith of the Golden Eaglets, however, remains unshaken.
“I know this team and these players possess the effort to keep fighting back, no matter the situation,” said Tijani.
Both of Nigeria’s last-minute triumphs came at Goiania’s Estadio Olimpico and that is where they would be battling out with the Oranje.
“We want to bring this World Cup back to Nigeria,” another Eaglet, Ibrahim Said, told fifa.com “I want to make my country proud of the team.”
If Said’s wishes come true, it will be a sixth title for Nigeria.