FIFA U-17 World Cup Final: the two captains speak in an interview.
Q: What kind of game do you expect in the final?
Musa Muhammed: The first game that we played against Mexico is over now. It’s in the past, so we’re focusing on the next one. It will be a hard game, because it’s a final and both sides have a lot to play for. We are sure to be totally focused before we kick off.
Ulises Rivas: It’s a different match from the first one, for sure. It will be a tough game for us, so we’ll have to be ready. It’s a World Cup final and this is a stage where you have to be at your best.
Q: Has your team gotten better over the course of the tournament?
Musa Muhammed: Yes. Absolutely. We tried to get better with every game because this is a special tournament for Nigeria and for Nigerians. We’re just completely happy to be playing for a fourth U-17 World Cup title here in UAE.
Ulises Rivas: Obviously we started badly, so there was nowhere to go but up for us. The last games were difficult ones, but they’ve made us stronger and more together in the team and they’ve prepared us for the final.
Q: What is the main strength of your team at this moment?
Musa Muhammed: We have a lot of players who can hurt you; there’s not just one guy who’s above the other guys. Everybody puts the job on his shoulders because football is about 11 players, not one or two. Everyone in this team gives his all for the cause, for his team and his country.
Ulises Rivas: Our main strength is our unity and our willingness to move the ball around. When we play together as one we become better than we are as individual players.
Q: What would it mean for you to become a world champion here in UAE?
Musa Muhammed: It’s hard to describe. It would be something so good for me, for my life and my family, so I just hope that we can do it on the day and go home as champions of the world.
Ulises Rivas: This would be a tremendous sensation for us. Everyone in the team is hoping for this, and it would be like a dream come true.
Q: Who is the first person you will call after the final?
Musa Muhammed: [Pause] I will, actually, call my teammates over to me because we are working so hard together for so long. I want to share the moment with them no matter what happens. We are all together as a team and I want to share the moment with all of my mates.
Ulises Rivas: I will go to my family. They’re here in UAE and I will run to hug them. They will be the first ones I look to.
PRE-MATCH FACTS AND FIGURES:
This would be a third Nigeria vs Mexico in the history of the U-17 World Cups.
The first occurred in the group round in 1987 and was won 1-0 by Mexico. The second encounter took place earlier in this edition on 19 October, 2013, when Nigeria inflicted a resounding 6-1 defeat on the Mexicans in their opening match of the campaign.
Nigeria won three U-17 World Cup titles (1985, 1993 and 2007) compared to Mexico’s two (2005 and 2011).
This is the fourth U-17 World Cup taking place in Asia. This continent is a happy ground for Nigeria, as all three of the previous editions, namely China (1985), Japan 1993 and the Republic of Korea 2007.
Nigeria would play in their seventh U-17 World Cup final, more than any other team in the history of this tournament.
The Golden Eaglets’ record in past title deciders stands at three wins and three defeats.
Reigning champions Mexico have the chance to clinch a second consecutive U-17 world title, a feat achieved only by Brazil in 1997 and 1999.
This is the first final to be played between CONCACAF and CAF teams. Representatives of the two confederations have crossed paths 37 times in the competition, including 35 times in the first round, once in the quarter-finals (Costa Rica 2-0 Burkina Faso in 2001) and once in the match for third place (USA 0-2 Ghana in 1999).
For the fifth time, two teams that met in the group round are reunited in the final. The same thing happened with the Soviet Union and Nigeria in 1987, Spain and Ghana in 1991, Brazil and Australia in 1999 and finally France and Nigeria in 2001.
Mexico lost one group match en route to the final, 6-1 against none other than Nigeria. In previous editions, two sides lifted the U-17 World Cup trophy despite losing a match. They were France in 2001 and Mexico themselves in 2005.
Nigeria have scored 23 goals so far this campaign.
The record for a single edition is held by Germany, who hit 24 in 2011.