Nigeria's Golden Eaglets overcame the threat of Mexico in the semi-finals stage of the FIFA U17 World Cup in Chile early Friday morning, winning 4-2 to set up an all Africa final against Mali who had earlier came from behind to defeat Belgium 3-1.
Completesportsnigeria.com's IZUCHUKWU OKOSI takes a look at the five major talking points from the match.
1. Golden Eaglets' Stray Passes
The Golden Eaglets midfield gave away several passes which inadvertently put pressure on the defenders early in the game. Emmanuel Amuneke will do well to ensure that his team do not succumb to such pressure from the Malian youngsters in the final.
The captain, Kelechi Nwakali, did his bit. Nwakali is known to play deeply from midfield and also make incisive passes going forward to the attacking players, but the defensive midfielders did not sufficiently help the defence like they should.
2. Golden Eaglets' Invincibility In Semi Finals Continues
Nigeria have never lost a game in the semi-finals of the FIFA U17 World Cup and that record remained intact after the 4-2 win against Mexico.
Nigeria defeated Guinea in the semi-finals of the FIFA JVC U16 tournament in 1985 via penalty kicks. The game had ended 1-1 at full time but the penalty kicks that followed afterwards ended 4-2 in favour of Nigeria.
The Golden Eaglets defeated Italy 1-0 in the semi-finals stage in 1987 though the Nigerians were defeated in the final by Soviet Union.
The Eaglets defeated Poland 2-1 in the semi-finals at Japan '93 and got the better of Burkina Faso in 2001 in Trinidad and Tobago, before losing in the final to France.
Nigeria won the U17 World Cup again in 2007 and before the final against Spain, they had defeated Germany 3-1 in the semis.
Nigeria hosted the world two years later and they defeated Spain 3-1 in the last 4 of the cadet World Cup. They got the better of Sweden by 3-0 in the United Arab Emirates in 2013 on their way to winning the title for the fourth time.
So the Golden Eaglets not only defeated Mexico who they defeated twice in 2013 to win the World Cup, but have ensured that their perfect semi-finals record is intact at the U17 World Cup.
3. Victor Osimhen 'Caged' By Mexico Defenders
The Mexicans had boasted prior to the game that they will stop leading scorer at the ongoing FIFA U17 World Cup in Chile, Victor Osimhen, from scoring against them and they almost succeeded.
Osimhen may have scored his 9th goal of the World Cup with a penalty kick in the match, but overall, his effectiveness was curtailed by the Mexican defenders, especially captain Jose Esquivel, who was all over the Nigerian dangerman.
This forced the striker to drift to the wings occasionally and it paid dividends as his cross into the Mexican 18-yard box led to the penalty he converted after overlapping right back John Lazarus was bundled to the ground.
4. Golden Eaglets Are Slow Starters
The Golden Eaglets were not all gun blazing from the start of the game. They invited pressure from the Mexicans who dominated the early stages.
Emmanuel Amuneke's players gained confidence though as the match progressed.
The Eaglets will do well to start off the blocks against a physical Malian side in the final.
Finals of major tournaments are most times determined by the odd goals, so the Nigerians getting a goal early will put some nerves in the Malians who will play the world champions with enormous respect.
5. Mexico Profited From John Lazarus' Attacking Runs
The Mexicans attacked the right side of Nigeria's defence relentlessly in the first half.
John Lazarus at right back has had a good World Cup, but his desire to join the Eaglets' attack from his position left El Tri with lots of space to attack the world champions.
Amuneke's team have gained from both his defensive and attacking contributions, but while the team's attacking players need the goals and support they could get from other teammates, the defenders must not always go gung-ho.
Perhaps the right-back, along with Udochukwu Anumudu at left-back, should remain stationed at their positions against Mali, unless they are leading by an unassailable scoreline against the fellow Africans.