Though already through to the Round of 16 at the FIFA U-17 World Cup Chile 2015, the Golden Eaglets have predicted a tough match between Nigeria and Croatia at the Estadio Francisco Sanchez Rumoroso in Coquimbo.
As recent as September 6, Croatia beat Nigeria 3-2 in an acrimonious encounter at the 2015 Suwon U-17 Invitational Tournament in Korea but the Golden Eaglets reckoned it would be payback time on Friday.
“We were unlucky against Croatia in Suwon because we were leading them 2-1 until few minutes to the end of the match,” recalled defender John Lazarus.
“They got a penalty to equalize and the winning goal later and that stopped us from winning the tournament. We won’t allow that to happen against us on Friday and we will work harder to win,” added the diminutive defender, who was in the U-13 National Team that won the London International Youth Tournament in 2010.
Midfielder David Enogela, who made his international bow at the youth level against Croatia in Suwon after coming on as a second half substitute for Captain Kelechi Nwakali, said the Golden Eaglets must be at their best against the combative Europeans.
“We saw in Suwon how physical they (Croatia) can play and I agree with Lazarus that they were unlucky to have beaten us,Enogela he said. “We are going to ensure that they don’t beat us on Friday and that means we have to be at our best, because they need the result more than us.”
The two matches in Group A would be played simultaneously on Friday at 12 midnight Nigerian time (8:00pm local Chilean time), with the three other teams needing a win to have a realistic chance of progressing to the Round of 16 along with Nigeria.
Host, Chile, who have one point along with USA, would slug it out at Estadio Sausalito, while Croatia, with two points from two matches, confront the Golden Eaglets in Coquimbo.
The Golden Eaglets would be without defensive midfielder Udochukwu Anumudu, who was booked against USA and Chile, as well as striker Funsho Bamgboye, who saw red against Chile on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, the Golden Eaglets on Wednesday left Vina der Mar for Coquimbo ahead of their last Group A match against Croatia on Friday.
A Nigerian, Nojeem Igeola Hassan, was delighted to welcome the team at their new abode at Hotel De La Bahia.
“I’m so happy to welcome you here and I’m really impressed with the boys’ performance against Chile on Tuesday,” Hassan said. “The Chileans never believed an African team would play like that against them. You really made me proud.”