We Were Close to Beating Eaglets – Swede Coach
Coach Roland Larsson has rued his side’s 3-3 draw with the Golden Eaglets, whom he said should have been beaten in yesterday’s Group F match at the FIFA U-17 World Cup here.
Speaking at the conference centre, Larsson said that his superior tactical play almost paid off against their more illustrious west African foes, who have won the competition three times.
Sounding disappointed with the result, which puts them on four points heading into their final group match with Mexico on Friday, Larsson said that his players deserved all the credit for putting up a strong
showing against Nigeria, who he described as one of the superpowers of world junior football.
“It sounds so funny that one can feel disappointed when you play a good draw against Nigeria. We were so close to victory but I am very proud of my boys and they deserve all the credit because they followed
all the plan. I am impressed with the individual skills, speed of the Nigerians but we also deserve some points for this massive show.
“We had studied the way Nigeria played at the Africa tournament and sent some scouts to watch them in the opening match and we had a plan to work very close to them. Our plan was to mark them closely and work
on the wings and it almost worked out. Nigeria is superpower of world football at the junior level but the wing was the key to stopping them.
Three-time champions, the Golden Eaglets came from the brink of defeat to earn a 3-3 draw with debutants Sweden in a thrilling Group F match at the FIFA U-17 World Cup here.
In what could go down as one of the exciting matches (Going by the goals), Sweden raced to a 2-0 lead in the opening 20 minutes, courtesy of two strikes by Varmin Bersha, in the 11th and 19th minutes, respectively.
Not wanting to go down without a fight, the Eaglets, reduced the deficit to a single digit, courtesy of a superb volley by African Nations Championship top scorer Success Isaac, who would later exit the match due to an injury.
With the Swedes exposing the poor defending by Eaglets’ short and lethargic defenders, Nigeria’s goalkeeper, Dele Ajampasu was also left at the mercy of the Europeans, who made use of their height and strong power play to muscle the Eaglets in the midfield.
With Kelechi Iheanacho failing to find his range and doing more work in the midfield, it was left for Musa Yahaya to draw Nigeria level three minutes into the second half.
The goal, a wonderful shot from the 18 yard box, beat goalkeeper Sisten Mohlin in goal for the Swede. In retrospect, he should have done better with the ball but great credit to Yahaya for having the courage to strike in the shot at a time that Nigeria’s attempt to play possession football was not working.
As Eaglets pushed for the winner, Mirza Halvadzic edged Sweden 3-2 up in the 65th minute, a goal that silenced the Nigerian fans, who before that goal believed that victory was on their way.
But Eaglets kept on prodding for the equalizer and deservedly got it nine minutes from regulation time through Taiwo Awoniyi.
Both teams looked for the winner but at the end of regulation time, the scores were 3-3, leaving Eaglets staying at the top of the table ahead of Friday’s final group games (Vanguard).