Golden Eaglets defeat Mali to win fifth U-17 World Cup title

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The Golden Eaglets of Nigeria defeated a spirited Malian side to clinch the FIFA U-17 World Cup Chile 2015 at the Estadio Sausalito, Vina Del Mar in the early hours of Monday.

The Eaglets had initially flunked a golden opportunity to go ahead in the first ten minutes of the game when Malian defender Chato handled the ball in the 18-yard box and referee Michael Oliver from England immediately pointed to the penalty spot.

In a move that surprised many fans who expected captain Kelechi Nwakali, who was the team’s regular penalty taker, or leading goal scorer Victor Osimhen, to take the resulting penalty kick, Ebere stepped forward, took the penalty and missed.

In all fairness to the young man, it was more the brilliance of the Malian goal keeper Samuel Diarra, who won the tournaments Golden Glove as the best goalkeeper, rather than his (Ebere’s) sloppiness that led to the miss.

And he did try to redeem himself as his header from the rebound was denied by the crossbar before another scrambled shot was turned wide by in-rushing Malian defenders.

The Malians appeared to be bent on punishing the Eaglets for failing to convert their early chance, forcing neat saves from Akpan Udoh, who appeared to be in his elements.

The discipline, tenacity and determination of the two teams led to a period of exotic passes, crafty dribbles and crunchy tackles until Victor Osimhen broke the deadlock for the Eaglets in the 56th minute.

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With that goal he became the highest goal scorer ever in the competition, with 10 goals, surpassing France’s Florent Sinama Pongolle and Suleymane Coulibaly from Cote d’Ivoire, who were both on 9 goals, and went on to win the tournament’s Adidas Golden Boot, awarded to the highest goal scorer.

Funsho Bamgboye, who missed the semi final against Mexico due to suspension, converted the Eaglets second goal, taking the game beyond the Malians.

An inspired performance from Nwakali saw him win the tournament’s Best Player award, with Mali’s Malle coming second and Osimhen third.

With this win, Nigeria has now won the competition for the fifth time, having won the inaugural edition in 1985 before going to win it again in 1993, 2007 and 2013.

Nigeria is also the second nation after Brazil to have secured back-to-back victory in the competition. The South Americans won it in 1997 and 1999, while the Eaglets won it in 2013 and 2015.

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