ABU DHABI // A raucous evening at the Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium concluded on Friday night in fittingly riotous fashion, with Nigeria, carried by the voice of thousands of their compatriots, holding aloft the Fifa Under 17 World Cup.
Just as Manu Garba, their impressive coach, predicted all along, his boys from West Africa were simply too good.
“I did say if we won this World Cup it would be my greatest achievement,” Garba said.
“The World Cup is the ultimate, the highest achievement in my profession, and to do it with these boys is very special.
“Apart from the fact we’re the only team not to lose a match, we have scored 26 goals and conceded five, and put in an incredible performance. I believe the world has seen a great display from this Nigerian side.”
Nigeria, like they had done for much of the tournament, now stand alone, as the competition’s sole four-time winners.
Not even Brazil, with their three U17 world titles, can compare.
“Nigeria have had a very good performance all tournament,” said Raul Gutierrez, the Mexico coach. “They showed in every match they are capable of performing well, of scoring a lot of goals. That they won the trophy is very fair.”
That the Mexicans were fair game had much to do with their dominant opponents.
In front as early as the ninth minute through an Erick Aguirre own goal, Nigeria never looked likely to relinquish their lead, and doubled it just before the hour mark, through a Kelechi Iheanacho tap-in.
It was left to Musa Muhammed to mark the occasion with a stunning free-kick on 81 minutes; one of the team’s standout stars producing one of the tournament’s most exceptional moments.
As the majority of the 20,018 spectators, Nigeria fans, would surely agree, it was a suitable denouement.
“It was a fitting final,” Garba said. “One of the best I’ve seen at this level. I’ve nothing but to praise these boys for giving their best because all finals are very tough. We showed our character.”
Thoughts now shift to what the future holds for this Nigeria side, none of whom have advanced beyond academy football. Led by the considerable talents of Iheanacho, Muhammed and Musa Yahaya – to name but a few – Garba will guide them through their progression to U20s, and then at that World Cup, in New Zealand in 2015.
“Once the celebration ends we will concentrate on building this team for the next level,” he said. “The concept of total football we have instilled will continue and, with the boys having this international exposure, by the time they graduate I can see an even better improvement.
“In two years’ time, with more training and with some of the players lucky enough to have found top clubs across the globe, I believe we will have an unbeatable team.”
Based on the evidence of a glittering three weeks in the Emirates, it is a delectable thought.