Written by Shina Oludare
Nigeria Under-17s are world champions after hammering Mexico Under-17s 3-0 to win the 15th edition of the Fifa U17 World Cup on Friday.
An early own-goal by Erick Aguirre, a strike from Kelechi Iheanacho midway through the second half and a late effort from Musa Muhammed were all the highly-talented Golden Eaglets needed to seal a fourth title on Asian soil.
The Africans’ win over the defending world and Concacaf champions sees them lift the trophy for a record fourth time, alongside their triumphs of 1985, 1993 and 2007.
El Tri dominated the early moments of the tension-soaked encounter but were unable to break through the Nigeria defence.
A few minutes into the match, Ivan Ochoa forced Dele Alampasu to make a brilliant save when his header was punched for a corner by the goalkeeper.
Mexico’s dominance was short-lived, though, after Aguirre attempted to clear away Taiwo Awoniyi’s pass meant for Musa Yahaya but accidentally put the ball in the back of his own net.
Mexico launched a comeback but their attacking forays were brought under constant check by the Muhammed-anchored defence. Alampasu made another top save midway through the first half, preventing Ulises Jaimes’s header from a free kick from finding the back of the net.
Yahaya went close to doubling the lead on 38 minutes when he rattled the crossbar from distance as Mexico battled to keep the score down.
With less than a minute to the end of the first half, Awoniyi’s acrobatic bicycle kick was parried terrifically by goalkeeper Raul Gudino, who cleared away the Imperial Academy forward’s effort.
Golden Eaglets’ onslaught continued 11 minutes after the restart when Iheanacho put another past a shell-shocked Mexico, after Gudino could not hold on to a strike from captain Muhammed.
Mexico U17 boss Raul Gutierrez made all his substitutions midway through the second half but the changes could not lift his side, as the Golden Eaglets stamped their authority on the game.
Mexico did fashion a rare chance as the second half wore on, but Ochoa’s header from close range went off target.
However, Muhammed sealed the win with less than nine minutes to play in Abu Dhabi courtesy of a well-taken free kick, after Iheanacho had been fouled by Pedro Teran.
Nigeria now hold the record for the most goals scored in a single U17 World Cup tournament with 26 goals, eclipsing the record set by Germany in 2011.