The current Nigeria U-17 national side does not fall short of their predecessors in knack for success, but only through shared “objective” has the nation’s cadet forged on to greater heights, according to current handler Emmanuel Amuneke.
Amuneke’s protégé are faced with a difficult task of defending the Fifa Under-17 World Cup in October and, despite a mixed continental campaign earlier in the year remain one of the favourites in Chile 2015.
The former Nigeria international, who was assistant coach under Manu Garba when the Golden Eaglets claimed a record fourth title in the United Arab Emirates in 2013, says the need for oneness in camp is sacrosanct regardless of the players’ personal objectives.
“…they should understand that they will be better off with the collective objective of doing well at the World Cup,” Amuneke told Fifa.com. “The most important thing is for them to be focused and remain themselves without thinking as individuals.
“The priority should be winning laurels for the country.”
Nigeria have struggled to translate their dominance at the age level on the global stage down to continental finals, with just two victories in the African U-17 Championship.
The 44-year-old coach is however satisfied that his charges successfully secured their passage to the 16th edition of the showpiece in the continental qualification tournament in Niger Republic, where they only managed to finish fourth last February. He opined that they play better at the World Cup than in Africa because “the pitches” in the case of the former are up to standard.
“We do well at the World Cup because the pitches help us to play much better. This happened at the 2013 tournament in the United Arab Emirates [which Nigeria won with a 3-0 victory against Mexico in the final]. People could see our real quality,” he said.
“African football is a totally different ball game. It is more rugged and sometimes the pitch condition does not help a team that likes to keep possession of the ball, for instance.”
On their semi-final and play-off defeats by South Africa and Guinea, Amuneke added: “I was satisfied because we qualified for the World Cup, especially when you see that of all the African teams that went to the last World Cup in the UAE, we are the only one going back in 2015. So we achieved our objective and we will be more prepared for the main event in Chile.”
This year’s tournament will begin on 17 October through 8 November.