By the round of 16 matches, it became obvious to the Technical Study Group (TSG) that Golden Eaglets of Nigeria will eventually win FIFA U17 World Cup trophy again in Chile. Thanks to Emmanuel Amuneke that tutored the boys so well in tactical discipline. He made it seem so easy, as the Nigerian team outright outshine their opponents with superior tactical approach; something that looked fresh out-of-box.
Not even TSG, with their years of experience, could decipher what pattern Amuneke was using. It was incredible how the Nigerian youngsters switched positions at ease. You always found five players crowding the midfield; with play-maker Kelechi Nwakali playing deep, more like a defensive midfielder. But at intervals, he quickly switched into the attacking role as the point-man Victor Osimhen drift away to the wings dragging along the opponent defenders.
Little wonder Osimhen alone scored 10 goals to cart away the all –time Highest goal scorer - Golden Boot Award, while Nwakali got 6 goals and also won the Most Valuable Player (MVP) – Golden Ball Award.
Eaglets could have scored as much as 10 goals per match, as no other coach in the tournament could find an antidote to Amuneke’s ‘mysterious tactics,’ so to say.
For large, Nigeria national teams do not play textbook football like most European sides, but Amuneke presented a pattern of play very much refined to watch. There was an indept team play and understanding among the boys; you’d wonder where on earth did he adopted this style of play from.
Amuneke is very experienced. He was an FC Barcelona player and part of the history making Super Eagles that won African Cup of Nation as well as qualified for the world cup for the first time in 1994. Amuneke was an amazing striker in his hare days. He won the African footballer of the year Award in 1995.
Amuneke’s playing career was cut short by a recurring knee injury. Then he switch over to coaching and went on to obtain a UEFA Coaching Certificate.
Amuneke was appointed Nigeria’s U17 national team coach after he assisted Manu Garba at the 2013 U17 world cup victory in UAE. Not many expected Amuneke to replicate such fit, because the 2013 squad was regarded the best U17 team ever assembled in Nigeria then.
The first six months of Amuneke’s appointment were spent selecting players from various football academies scattered across Nigeria. The NFF technical committee also recommended some players they penciled down. There was a lot of work to be done on the boys, as their first invitational tournament at Republic of Benin didn’t turned out so well.
Amuneke returned from that tournament as started rebuilding the team afresh. Some of the players were De-camped and new ones brought-in to fortify the team. Again, Eaglets were lucky to have qualified for FIFA U17 World cup, after they finished third at African U17 Championship in Niger.
Amuneke’s ability was in doubt and some school of thoughts at NFF wanted him sacked and to replace him immediately with Nduka Ugbade. Somehow, that didn’t happen.
Amuneke began a major fire drill, where the boys actually trained three times a day with high level competition for each position. A little mis-behavior saw some players De-camped and everyone had to sit up. “ It was like a Military camp of Soldiers preparing for a major war.” Recall Ibe
Gradually, Amuneke began to instill this self invented tactics. Although, some old friends I spoke to said it wasn’t that a new tactics all together. It was like something he learned earlier at his secondary school days at Coker High School in Ajegunle. But it was a wonder really how Amuneke still remembered the winning formula of Coach Temile. The pattern that brought so much trophies and glory to the school in the late 80s’
Perhaps, NFF technical committee should also study this incredible football tactics and see if we can adopt it both for the U21 and the Super Eagles. This winning tactics may be new and still mysterious to the world, but it is a traditional style that most Footballers in Ajegunle have already mastered.