Nigeria’s Under-17 football team coach, Manu Garba, has said Saturday’s opening match of the 2013 Fifa Under-17 World Cup in the UAE offers the three-time champions the opportunity to get off to a good start against the defending champions.
The Golden Eaglets will be looking to add a record fourth title to their trophy cabinet, beginning with tomorrow’s crucial opening game against Mexico.
Coach Garba has played down the challenges of facing the defending champions in the opening game, stressing it is the Mexicans who should be wary of Nigeria’s pedigree at the youth level, but believes his team will approach the encounter like it is a cup final.
“With all due respect, I think it is the Mexicans that should be afraid of playing us because we are top side at this level. The first game is crucial in any tournament and we are going to play Mexico like a cup final,” Garba said at a press conference held inside the Bin Zayed Stadium, venue of the Group F opener.
According to the Nigerian coach, the Eaglets are favourite to clinch the 2013 tournament, having won in two previous occasions on Asian soil.
“We feel very much at home here in the UAE because Asia is home away from home for us. We won in China for the first time in 1985 and also in 1993 in Japan. So we consider Asia as a traditional place for us.
“Of course, we are going to do our best and Insha Allah (God willing) we shall be victorious,” added Garba.
The coach expressed satisfaction with the lush green grass at the Al Ain FC pitch, where the Nigeria U-17 have been training and are expected to round off for the Mexico duel Monday morning.
They will aim to put finishing touches to some few lapses noticed early on before the match on Saturday.
Also speaking at the media conference, striker Chidera Ezeh said Nigeria are rearing to go, having acclimatised well in the Gulf State.
Ezeh said: “We are getting the right information from our coaches about the Mexicans and, we have really settled down in UAE because we came into Dubai two weeks ago.”