Five–time champions Nigeria swept past Hungary 4-2 in the opening match of the 2019 FIFA Under-17 World Cup finals in Brazil on Saturday.
The Eaglets scored three goals in six second half minutes, and they were just a reward for their persistence and determination.
Just like what happened when both teams last met at the championship — the inaugural edition in China 34 years ago — Hungary drew the first blood.
Inside the first three minutes, Gyorgy Komaromi took full advantage of poor defensive organisation to slot past goalkeeper Daniel Jinadu.
The Eaglets created chance after chance and eventually drew level when team captain Samson Tijani sent goalkeeper Kristjan Hegyi the wrong way from the penalty kick spot.
That was after Wisdom Ubani had been upended in the box.
Tijani’s equaliser was Nigeria’s 150th goal in the history of the FIFA Under-17 World Cup.
Yet, the Europeans would again go into the lead, when Samuel Major placed the ball clinically beyond Jinadu from a counter-attack as the Nigerian defence was again caught napping.
Still unruffled, the Eaglets continued to launch onslaught after onslaught, but were undone by a combination of short passes, hyper-ventilation and wayward shooting.
On resumption of the second half at the Estadio Olimpico in Goiania, the Eaglets took full control, dictating the pace and creating goalscoring opportunities.
But poor finishing by Ubani, Tijani, Ibrahim Sa’id and Olakunle Olusegun delayed the turn-around.
The introduction of Akinkunmi Amoo and Ibrahim Jabaar invigorated the Nigerian side, and in the 79th minute, defender Usman Ibrahim scored.
He was on the alert to head the ball into the net from a corner kick by Sa’id as goalkeeper Hegyi made a poor job of coming out to claim the ball.
Two minutes later, it was 3-2 after Jabaar’s dazzling run ended with a pullout from the left, which defender Oluwatimilehin Adeniyi headed past Hegyi even as Donat Orosz tried in vain to stop the contact.
Tijani made the scoreline safe for a hardworking Nigeria side in the 85th minute.
His angled free-kick from 23 yards out was deflected by the head of Botond Balogh to wrong-foot Hegyi.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reported that in the other match of the opening day, host nation Brazil pounded Canada 4-1 in Brasilia.
Nigeria will go up against Ecuador in their next match on Tuesday at the same venue.
Victory is certain to take the Eaglets to the Round of 16, ahead of their final Group B encounter with Australia. (NAN)