Five-time champions Nigeria swept past Hungary 4-2 in the opening match of the 2019 FIFA U17 World Cup finals in Brazil on Saturday evening, with three goals in six second-half minutes that were just rewarded for the persistence and determination of the Golden Eaglets.
As happened when both teams last met at the championship – the inaugural edition in China 34 years ago – Hungary drew the first blood inside the first three minutes, as Gyorgy Komaromi took full advantage of poor defensive organization to slot past Daniel Jinadu in goal for Nigeria.
The Eaglets, in search of a sixth world title, created chance after chance and eventually drew level when captain Samson Tijani sent goalkeeper Kristjan Hegyi the wrong way from the spot after Wisdom Ubani had been upended in the box.
Tijani’s equalizer was Nigeria’s 150th goal in the history of the FIFA U17 World Cup.
Yet, the Europeans would again go into the lead, when Samuel Major placed the ball clinically beyond Jinadu from a counter attack as the Nigerian defence was again caught napping.
Still unruffled, the Eaglets continued to launch onslaught after onslaught, but were undone by a combination of short passes, hyperventilation and wayward shooting.
On resumption of the second half at the Estadio Olimpico in Goiania, the Eaglets took full control, dictating the pace and creating goalscoring opportunities, but poor finishing by Wisdom Ubani, captain Samson Tijani, Ibrahim Sa’id and Olakunle Olusegun delayed the turn-around.
The introduction of Akinkunmi Amoo and Ibrahim Jabaar invigorated the Nigerian side, and in the 79th minute, defender Usman Ibrahim was on the alert to head the ball into the net from a corner by Ibrahim Sa’id as keeper Hegyi made a poor job of coming out to claim the ball.
Two minutes later, it was 3-2 after Ibrahim Jabaar’s dazzling run ended with a pull –out from the left that defender Oluwatimilehin Adeniyi headed past Hegyi even as Donat Orosz tried in vain to stop the contact.
Tijani made the scoreline safe for a hard working Nigeria side when in the 85th minute, his angled free kick from 23 yards out was deflected by the head of Botond Balogh to wrong foot Hegyi.
In the other match of the opening day, host nation Brazil pounded Canada 4-1 in Brasilia.
Nigeria will go up against Ecuador in their next match on Tuesday at the same venue, with victory certain to take the Eaglets to the Round of 16 ahead of their final Group B encounter with Australia.