Eaglets: A study in ruthless efficiency at U-17 World Cup


Eaglets: A study in ruthless efficiency at U-17

 World Cup

Almost as distinct a feature of Chilean topography as the rising Andes that 
shears it from neighbours Argentina, is the figure of a jubilant Victor 
Osimhen.
There was just the one goal for him on Sunday against Brazil, and
 the tight 
little fist pump from Emmanuel Amunike underlined how crucial the 
timing was.
The Golden Eaglets have been
dominant all through the tournament – barring the 2-1 Croatia defeat – but 
have quirkily only started one game on the front foot.
They rolled over the hosts 5-1 when Samuel Chukwueze score inside the 
first two minutes, and then the score stayed at a nervy 2-0 until the last half-hour.
In all others, they have given the opposition a bit of room to work in at the start, 
a tantalizing peep of thigh before snatching the hem down, mild bemusement 
at the nerve to attempt to reach out and touch. It would really be a challenge 
for a team to take them up on it and get an early goal for once, 
if only to see what might result.
Brazil were clearly the quicker to settle, and might have gone ahead had 
Akpan Udoh been less attentive in the Nigerian goal. His strong left hand 
to kill a shot from Evander, after John Lazarus had missed a low fizzing 
cross into the box, was almost Buffon-esque. This team often has the feel 
of an accordion, the left and right manuals Osimhen and Udoh, contracting 
in defence and expanding in attack, with midfield bellows in-between 
activated in pressure and tension, aggressively funnelling play away 
from the centre.
Naturally, it was Osimhen who rose highest to meet a flighted delivery and 
score via a deflection. Eight for the tournament, and having scored in every 
game, Florent Sinama-Pongolle’s record of nine looks eminently beatable 
right now. Osimhen will also hope that is the only context within which
 his name will be mentioned alongside the former Liverpool and Atletico 
Madrid forward, whose early promise never materialised!
Osimhen | Eyeing a 14-year record
The timing of the goal could not have been better: Brazil’s initial wave of 
pressure had slowed, their fervour cooled as Amunike’s men tightened 
the screw in midfield. With each man in yellow watched with eagle eyes, 
the Selecao’s ball circulation was bogged down in a swamp of green. 
Scoring just then, with the Brazilians seemingly having punched themselves 
out already, drove the air out of canary lungs.
The five minutes that followed produced two more goals of almost insulting 
simplicity, from Kinsley Michael materialising unmarked in the box to volley 
Osimhen’s hooked pass via the turf, to Udochukwu Anumudu’s speculative 
tame effort from a long way out befuddling Juliano in the Brazil goal.
Rather than create outright, the emphasis seemed to be on provoking mistakes 
and, unsurprisingly for a team that seems to lack outright creativity through the 
middle, it may indeed be the approach that yields the greatest reward for the 
Golden Eaglets. Brazil finished the game with a greater share of the possession; 
as beleaguered Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho frequently avers, the team 
with the ball is more prone to mistakes.
Nigeria's aggregate score during the U-17 World Cup is 17-3
Indeed, there is no team better in Chile at punishing errors, isolating
 weakness and latching onto it like snarling wolves. Osimhen, hunter-in-chief 
and leader of the pack, all lithe limbs and cold menace, is the ultimate predator.
Two games stand between Nigeria and a fifth U-17 title which, upon attaining, 
will almost certainly animate Amunike’s stony inscrutability into a smile. 
All constant self-awareness, and insistence on muted celebration on the bench,
 he withholds approbation just long enough to coax another goal and
 keep the team grounded.
His forbidding severity in the dugout is particularly fascinating, 
and perhaps it is the right approach for a team that looks like it 
can only be beaten by itself.

CULLED FROM GOAL

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