Golden Eaglets coach, Manu Garba has argued that it was unfair for his players to receive thumbs down after their 3-3 display against Sweden on Tuesday, at the on-going FIFA Under-17 World Cup here in the United Arab Emirate.
The Eaglets came from behind to share the points with the Swedes, after an emphatic 6-1 thrashing of Mexico in their group F opening game. The team on Tuesday looked out-maneuvered by the Sweden and Nigerian fans were to concluded that the team was deficient especially in the defence.
But coach Garba said that that it was wrong for people to say that, pointing out that: “This is an Under-17 team and none of them have experience. You do not expect them not to make some mistakes at times.
“I do not think we have struggled in this tournament or at the CAN Junior event. We scored 18 goals in Morocco while Ivory Coast scored five and people are still feeling that we struggled.
“We are getting better. At this tournament, we have shown that we can score and will get better with stronger opposi-tion”, added Garba.
Coach Garba not given to flamboyancy unlike colleagues like Godwin Uwa, Stephen Keshi, Samson Siasia and John Obuh, stated that he and his assistant did a good job of selecting the players for the team.
“It was not an easy job at all. This is against the background of dust that was raised in the past concerning the true ages of our players. It took me and my coaches a lot of time to go across the country to get these boys from the schools.
“Most people think that the crop of the players are from academies but that is not true. Most of these players are from schools. In fact, we discovered a few of them from the Shell Cup for Secondary Schools because that tournament is truly for students in secondary schools.
“We picked a few of them from soccer academies but we had to work on them so that they can perform to get them to where they are now. They are still a work in progress because they are Under-17 players and you do not expect them to know everything in some months”, added Garba.
He informed Saturday Vanguard Sports that the ultimate plan was to take the crop of the current team to the Flying Eagles in two years’ time, noting that the players have shown that they have the talent to naturally fill that position.
“Our ambition is to take them to the next FIFA U-20 World Cup and African Junior Championship. “They have shown promises of a good future and if they get contracts with foreign clubs, it will be great for us and our cause to build a stronger team in two years’ time. “If they get good deals with foreign teams, that will help them to play even better for Nigeria in the next tournament. I see them going places”, Garba said.
His whole national football career has been around youth teams. He was amongst the first Flying Eagles set that qualified to represent Nigeria at the maiden FIFA U-20 World Cup, Mexico 1983. He assisted the late Coach Yemi Tella to win the 2007 FIFA U-17 World Cup in South Korea. Garba, assisted by Nduka Ugbade and Emmanuel Amuneke succeeded to qualify the Golden Eaglets for the ongoing FIFA World Cup in UAE.