The four nations in Group A kicked off their Under-17 World Cup journeys on Saturday, and the Nigerians are leading the pack thus far. However, host nation Chile was brought to stand still with Croatia crashing the party. Both matches in the group were played at the Estadio Nacional Julio Martinez Pradanes in Santiago, Chile.
In the first game the Super Eagles dominated the Americans in every aspect. The United States was bullied around for the 90 minutes. Nigeria produced 19 shots and placed six of them on target, forcing U.S. goalie Will Pulsic to make four saves to keep the Americans in the match.
However, the Yanks defense was never given an opportunity to catch their breath since the offense was nonexistent. The United States managed to create five shots, but none of them were on frame. They lost the battle of possession with Nigeria by 16 percent, but at times it seemed to be a larger number.
Regardless, although the Americans struggled to generate any serious chances, the Africans did not break the deadlock till the second half. Super Eagles midfielder Chukwudi Agor recovered a loose ball near the penalty spot. Agor's opportunity was created following two failed clearances from the U.S. defense. He then blasted the ball into the back of the net to make it 1-0 in the 50th minute.
Eleven minutes later, the reigning Under-17 World Cup champions doubled their lead and sealed the three points. Once again, the American defense collapsed when a U.S. defender reacted late to a bouncing ball and failed to clear it out of the danger area.
As a result, the ball bounced past him and into the path of Nigerian striker Victor Osimhen, who made it 2-0 by placing the shot in the bottom right hand corner in the 61st minute.
The game took a turn for the worse when American defender Alexis Velela was given a red card in the 87th minute. The U.S. ended their World Cup opener with a 2-0 defeat and a red card.
The final game of the group saw Chile come back to earn a 1-1 draw. The match did not start well for the host nation. Defender Fabián Monilla was forced to leave the game in the seventh minute due to an injury. Their bad start got worse when Croatia’s captain Nikola Moro shocked the fans with an athletic goal from the top of the penalty box.
He ran to a bouncing ball, beat a defender to the spot. He quickly fired a high shot that seemed to be flying harmlessly over the post. However, at the last second the ball dropped and fell into the net to make it 1-0 in the eighth minute.
The Croatians were off to a dream start and Chile was experiencing a nightmare during which they were wide awake. La Roja responded right away as their offense started to set up chances. After a few shots that just sailed wide, midfielder Yerko Leiva fired a shot that flew to the bottom left hand corner. The stadium erupted when Leiva tied the match 1-1 at the 33rd minute.
After that the two nations kept on spawning chances left and right. They both combined for 24 shots, but the game ended 1-1 and the Europeans held on for the crucial point against the host nation.
This is how the group looks after the first games:
The two games will both be held on Tuesday at the Estadio Sausalito in Viña del Mar, Chile. The United States and Croatia will start the action for the group. Regardless that Croatia has a point after their first game, they still need to get three points out of this match. The Yanks cannot afford to leave the Estadio Sausalito without points. If they lose this game they will be eliminated from the World Cup.
Then Chile will end the day by hosting first place Nigeria. If the Super Eagles get a victory they will qualify for the second round. La Roja, like Croatia, is going to search for the three points in front of their home crowd.