[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he Finals of the FIFA’s U-17 2013 World Cup will hold today in Abu Dhabi even as Nigeria’s Golden Eaglets will be seeking to make history by becoming the first team to win it for the 4th time. Mexico’s ‘El Tri’ will be defending their title against three-time champions Nigeria after both comfortably won their semi-finals. Both teams were heavy favorites prior to the competition, and fans have not been disappointed.
Nigeria thumped the Sweden U17 lads by 3-0 while Mexico triumphed over Argentina by the same margin. The highly-anticipated clash will pitch two teams which emerged from the proverbial “group of death”, even Sweden who will play against Argentina in the third-place match, also emerged from that group.
It is sure to be a close final, an end-to-end stuff, a high octane football considering the fact that both teams have improved tremendously since their opening games where Nigeria blew Mexico to smithereens 6-1.
This will be the seventh time a team has defended the title in the U-17 World Cup after, Brazil (in 1999 and 2005), Ghana (1993 and 1997) and Nigeria (1987 and 2009) all achieved the same feat. However, Brazil are the only team to have successfully defended their crown.
The Nigerians have two significant statistics in their favour: They are yet to be beaten in this competition and they have qualified for their sixth final scoring a total of 23 goals – more than any other team in the competition. Germany broke the record for the number of goals scored at the FIFA U-17 World Cup by finding the net no fewer than 24 times in 2011 after having surpassed their own benchmark of 20 goals, the Nigerians (23) now find themselves one strike away from equalling the Germans’ impressive haul.
With two matches left to play and 164 goals already recorded, UAE 2013 looks likely to become the most prolific U-17 World Cup ever, surpassing Korea Republic 2007 (165). The Golden Eaglets have played a total of 48 matches; won 43, drew 4 and only lost one (1); scoring a total of 218 goals and conceded just 53.
The West Africans have won three times, placed second three times, fifth twice and ninth once. On the other hand, the Mexicans won once in 2011, placed sixth once, seventh once, ninth once, 10th three times and 11th once.
Mexico’s strength lies in its strong defense tea. Raul ‘The Octopus’ Gudifio lived up to his nickname with superb goalkeeping against Argentina. Marco Granados is another player to watch, he’s become the side’s secret weapon. The super sub has taken part in all six of his team’s matches, but has only been on the pitch for a total of 106 minutes.
Referee: Craig THOMSON (SCO)
Venue: Abu Dhabi, Mohamed Bin Zayed Stadium, 5:00PM Nigerian time)