Mexico and Nigeria faced off in the U-17 World Cup semifinals with a chance to see which of these two nationals would return to the U-17 finals, in a rematch of the finals two years ago. Nigeria were looking for an opportunity to make it to the finals to try and defend their trophy. While Mexico looked to make their third finals in a row and avenge their defeat to the Super Eaglets.
Nigeria entered the match as the most lethal team in the tournament having scored a total of 17 goals entering the semifinals and only failed to score more than one goal in this tournament once, when they lost to Croatia 2-1 in their final group game. They also had the tournaments leading goal scorer entering the game with Victor Osimhen’s eight.
While Nigeria entered the game with all the fire power, Mexico entered the match as maybe the most complete team. Showing a combination of great team play as they’ve had seven different players score their 10 goals. While at the same time only allowing two goals. Leaving the encounter of a contrast of styles.
Early in the match it was Mexico on the front foot, possibly catching the young Nigerian team on their heels as Mexico were able to create two great early chances. If it wasn’t for some poor finishing Mexico could have had an early multi goal lead. Eight minutes into the match on their third chance of the game, Kevin Magana struck home a fine finish from inside the box off a cross to give Mexico a 1-0 lead.
Mexico and Nigeria battled the rest of the half as the Super Eaglets were able to find their groove in the match. Both teams battled, crawled, and fought throughout the game with every 50-50 challenge and every loose ball. It wasn’t till the 35th minute that a fantastic free kick from captain Kelechi Nwakali from the left side of the goal found its way over the ball and into the low left corner of the keepers net to tie the match at 1-1.
Eight minutes later and two minutes before the end of the half Orji Okwonkwo cut into the right side of the field from the left wing and launched an absolute rocket from 35 yards out into the back of the net to give Nigeria a 2-1 lead into the half.
After the half, Mexico came out and applied a heavy attack to try and get back into the match as they pushed with passing, crosses, and shots. It wasn’t until the 60th minute that a solo effort from Diego Cortes that involved receiving the ball near the right side and cut into the middle of the field, where he took on two players before entering the box. With the ball still at his feet he entered the box and beat another two players and finished the ball passed the keeper with ease to score possibly the goal of the tournament and nod everything at 2-2.
From there, Mexico and Nigeria continued their battle in a back and forth encounter as Mexico were even able to create a few more chances to try and take the lead. It was a 67th shot from Osinachi Ebere that beat Abraham Romero across his body to give Nigeria the 3-2 lead.
Nigeria finally put this game out of reach for the young Aztecs when a soft foul was called for Nigeria in the box, leading to a PK for them in which Osimeh would finish from the spot without any double and put an end to an entertaining match.
Mexico will look back at this match and see that they had all the chances they wanted to pull off the upset against Nigeria but were unable to take advantage of those chances. Instead of battling for their third straight U-17 World Cup in a row and their fourth in 10 years, they will now face European side Belgium in the third place match on Sunday November 8th. The finals will be an all African affair as Mali look to knock off the favorites Nigeria later in the day of Sunday.