Nigeria becoming the first country to win the title for a fifth time was the biggest story of the FIFA U-17 World Cup Chile 2015, but by no means the only one. For example, the presence of Mali in the final made for just the second occasion on which two teams from the same continent have contested the deciding match. As such, ‘Una fiesta un nuestra cancha’ (a party on our pitch), as the slogan Chile used to welcome the world put it, was ultimately celebrated to a distinctly African beat.
"It's very important for African football and incredible that something like this has only happened once before," said Orji Okwonkwo after the semi-final win over Mexico, an athletic and pacy, yet also well-organised and incisive performance that epitomised Nigeria's run to glory.
"Our aim was to defend the trophy. We approached each game with hard work and seriousness. Any team that came to Chile worked for it," stressed Nigeria captain and playmaker Kelechi Nwakali, the winner of the adidas Golden Ball and Bronze Boot awards. Another player who more than lived up to the team's nickname, the Golden Eaglets, was Victor Osimhen, who scooped the adidas Golden Boot with ten goals, a record tally for the event.
Despite going into tournament as African U-17 champions, and their counterparts having stormed to the last four of the FIFA U-20 World Cup just months earlier, Mali's exploits nevertheless caused a stir.
"It is the first time Mali have reached the final. We can be very proud," enthused their coach, Baye Ba, on the back of a campaign in which his side turned heads thanks to their combination of attacking flair, ruthlessness and defensive solidity. "Not many teams reach second place. Our goal is to have a senior team who can win, so we will continue our work. Everything is installed in our youth programmes so that we can reach another final in the future,"
There was another surprise on the last step of the podium. Belgium took bronze despite being the only of the semi-finalists who didn't win their group and being less fancied than other European participants, among whom France and Germany both shone before being knocked out in the Round of 16. http://mmoga.cc/