LINUS LINDAHL in AIPS* / DUBAI: After their 3-3 draw in the first round, Nigeria and Sweden faced each other for a second time, with even more at stake, in the semi-finals of the FIFA U-17 World Cup UAE 2013 here.
Nigeria scored three times again but Sweden this time went goalless and the Golden Eaglets will thus face Mexico in the final on Friday.
Diego Maradona, Argentina’s 1986 World Cup-winning captain and an ambassador for the UAE game, was in the crowd which saw the African team start with only one change from the quarter-final win over Uruguay: Ezeh Chidera replacing suspended Akinijide Idowu.
The start of the match was a cagey affair between the two teams which stayed cautious until the 20th minute when the mastermind of the Golden Eaglets, Kelechi Iheanacho lobbed the ball over the Swedish defense to Taiwo Awoniyi who scored the first goal from short range.
Nigeria gained in confidence and became better organised while the Swedes were unable to break through the Nigerian defense except for one occasion when winger Gustav Engvall dribbled past two players and stung the hands of Nigerian goalkeeper Dele Alampasu with a powerful shot.
In the second half the Swedes created more space. The best opportunity saw Elias Andersson square a free kick to Erdal Rakip who shot just too high.
However the payback for all Sweden’s hard work was to be punished with two late goals.
As the Scandinavians tired so Samuel Okon scored 10 minutes from the end from close range and, one minute later, the Swedish defence was caught sleeping when Chidera Ezeh put the outcome beyond a doubt with the third goal.
The 11,800, mainly Nigerian, spectators in the Rashid-Stadium in Dubai were in seventh heaven. A deflated Swedish team will now play Argentina for the third place.
* AIPS, the international sports journalists association, is running a Young Reporters course at the FIFA U-17 World Cup UAE 2013 with the support of the local organising committee and FIFA
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