One tournament wonders: 8 Nigerian players who lit up a competition but never reached same level again

One tournament wonders: 8 Nigerian players who lit up a competition but never reached same level again

- Nigeria have produced exciting players at underage tournaments over the years

- The Golden Eaglet and the Flying Eagles had players who struggled to advance to the next level in their respective careers

- Only a few of these stars that represented Nigeria were able to play at the highest level of the game

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Nigeria is a country blessed with talents in football and over the years, any team fielded by the green and white nation commands lots of respect in competitions they play in.

Many players have represented Nigeria from the junior level before graduating to become top stars in the senior national team.

Several stars have gone through the ranks and become household names in world football up until the present day.

One tournament wonders: 8 Nigerian players who lit up a competition but never reached same level again
8 Nigerian players who lit up a competition but never reached same level again. Photo by Alex Grimm
Source: Getty Images

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However, there are players who did well in the underage tournaments but were nowhere to be found after the promises they shown in these competitions. takes a look at notable players that failed to hit their peak after showing flashes of brilliance in underage competitions.

1. Victor Igbinoba and Billa Momoh (U17 World Cup China 85')

Nigeria are the country with the most wins at U17 level since it was introduced in 1985 by FIFA with China playing host to the event.

Momoh and Igbinoba were the stars of the tournament for the Golden Eaglets as they shared seven goals between them to help Nigeria win the tournament.

But only captain Nduka Ugbade and Jonathan Akpoborie were the only stars who played up to the senior level.

2. The late Philip Osondu (U17 World Cup Chile 87')

Osondu announced his name to the world at Chile 87' cadet World Cup where he bulldozed his way into opponents' defence.

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Nigeria lost in the finals to Russia on penalties but Osondu was handed the player of the tournament award which earned him a contract to top European side, Anderlecht.

The striker failed to replicate the form in the underage tournament, neither did he advance to play in any of the national teams as his grace to grass story still teaches upcoming stars lessons.

3. Christopher Ohenhen (U20 World Cup Saudi 89')

The striker was discovered at the World Youth Championships in Saudi Arabia as he led Nigeria into the finals scoring three goals in six matches.

He spent most of his career in Spain and his best club spell was with Compostella where he bagged 70 goals in 196 matches.

Ohenhen only featured in one game for the Super Eagles and missed in the final 23-man squad that played at France 98' World Cup. Mutiu Adepoju and Nduka Ugbade progressed into the senior squad.

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4. Peter Anosike (U17 World Cup Japan 93')

Nigeria won her second U17 World Cup in Japan 93' and the team produced players that won Africa's first Olympic gold medal in football

Players like Wilson Orunma, Nwankwo Kanu, Celestine Babayaro, Mobi Oparaku all played at the highest level of the game.

However, Anosike who scored five goals at the cadet tournament could not find his bearing and went off the scene.

5. Femi Opabunmi (U17 World Cup Trinidad and Tobago 2001)

Opabunmi was the toast of the Golden Eaglets team with six goals in six matches helping Nigeria finish second behind France who won the tournament.

The exciting winger attracted interest from Man United but chose to play for Swiss League side FC Grasshopper.

He was part of Festus Onigbinde's side that played at the 2002 World Cup in Korea/Japan and made an appearance in Nigeria's final group match against England.

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Opabunmi is currently blind in the right eye and retired prematurely from the game in 2006.

6. Chrisantus Macaulay (U17 World Cup Korea 2007)

Chrisantus was just too good at the U17 tournament in Korea as his seven goals in six matches helped Nigeria win their third World Cup.

He was quickly signed by German side Hamburg and has gone on to play for 11 different sides without being called up to the national team.

His best club spell was with Spanish side Las Palmas where he scored 20 goals in 67 appearances but the once cherished striker is now making earns meet with Saudi club Hetten.

7. Chidebere Nwakali and Taiwo Awoniyi (U17 World Cup UAE 2013)

As good as the squad was in 2013, they took apart every team that crossed their path until they won Golden Eaglets fourth world title.

Isaac Promise and Kelechi Iheanacho have played for the U20's and the senior national teams but Nwakali is yet to wear the green and white jersey after his remarkable performance for Nigeria.

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Awoniyi on the other hand, who many thought was the next Rashidi Yekini has been loaned out by Liverpool to seven different but he played for the Nigerian U23 side that failed to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics.

8. Kelechi Nwakali

The Huesca midfielder was the most valuable player in the 2013 edition as he captained the side that retained the trophy in Chile in 2015.

He was snapped by Premier League side Arsenal but was loaned out to four different sides before earning a contract with newly-promoted La Liga side Huesca.

The skillful midfielder has failed to earn a call up to the current Super Eagles squad by Gernot Rohr and is yet to reach his full potential at club level.

The 22-year-old scored a fantastic goal in a Nigerian selected side that played against Atletico Madrid in 2018 and captained the U23 side that missed qualification to the Tokyo Olympics.

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Meanwhile, had earlier reported that Pele's legendary status in football is second to none and his influence in the round leather game has been unmatched until today.

The Brazilian icon once landed in Nigeria during the civil war and there was a ceasefire when Santos played two friendlies against the Super Eagles in 1969.

Santos pulled out of the Copa Libertadores - the South American version of the Champions League as they began a world tour.

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