Garba warns Mexico they should fear the three-time winners
One of the standout matches in the opening week of next month’s Fifa Under 17 World Cup sees Nigeria, the three-time champions, take on title-holders Mexico at the Sheikh Khalifa International Stadium in Al Ain.
But Manu Garba, the African team’s coach, has his sights set on lifting the trophy and thinks Mexico will be fearful of his side.
“It is the cup, or nothing,” Garba told Fifa.com, ahead of the tournament which begins across the UAE on October 17.
Nigeria, along with Brazil, have won the tournament a record three times. They have appeared in more finals (six) than any other team.
“We have won the competition three times, Mexico have won it twice, so they should be scared of us,” Garba said. “We do not fear any opponent, but we respect them, and I think we can do well.”
After the Mexico game on October 19, Nigeria face Sweden in Al Ain three days later, then take on Iraq at the Rashid Stadium in Dubai on October 25.
The West Africans, who last won the trophy in 2007 in South Korea and finished runners-up two years later at home, are also making changes to the way they verify players’ ages, after three players were sent home from the African U17 Championship in April in Morocco. Players underwent Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scans to verify their ages.
Nigeria, along with Ivory Coast and Congo, each had three players ruled too old. But as the tests were conducted at such a late stage, the disqualified players could no longer be replaced in the squad and the three countries had just 19 players on the roster, instead of 22.
Nigerian officials decided to scan the players before the team leaving for the Middle East, and again, several players were ruled ineligible.
“It was a precautionary measure,” an official said.
Garba, who was previously head coach of local side Gombe United and remains on the coaching staff of the Nigerian Premier League club, has been in charge of the Golden Eaglets since the beginning of 2011.
The coach has been in camp in the Nigerian city of Calabar with an extended squad for several weeks. In two friendly games, they beat Espanyol’s academy 11-0 and City Football Club of Calabar 9-1.
“You can see there is a good chemistry in the team, and we are delighted that the players are really responding and putting into effect all that they are being taught in training,” Garba said.