By Albert Akota
Nigeria’s U15 boys yesterday lost their final game of the 2019 International Dream Cup to their European counterparts Romania 2-1 at the Yurtec Stadium in Miyagi.
The game which was played yesterday morning saw the Future Eagles bag a second consecutive defeat at the U16 tournament in Japan. Nigeria started the tournament with a 3-1 win over Mexico on 12th June, but lost against the host country Japan on 14th June and against Romania on the last day of the tournament on 16th June.
Future Eagles head coach, Haruna Ilerika made two changes into the line-up against Mexico. Sulaimon Lawal started his first game of the tournament with the team captain, Oluwatobi Adeleke rested, while Ejiofor Chidera started ahead of Damilola Adeyeye.
Nigeria dominated the first half with beautiful build-up play from the back, but lacked the right decisions in the final third with the trio of Egesionu Sopuruchukwu, Opeyemi Qudus and Evbuomwan Gift finding it difficult to crack down the compact Romania defence.
Robert Todol scored in both halves for Romania while Sopuruchukwu scored a late consolation for the Future Eagles. Todol scored his first goal of the game late in the first half after a defensive mix-up by the Nigerian boys.
Romania resumed the second half as the better side, and Todol completed his brace of the match two minutes into the second half.
It was a late improved performance for the Future Eagles as they dominated the last 15 minutes in the second half chasing for goals. Sopuruchukwu reduced the deficit in the 90th minute for Nigeria, his beautiful header beating Romania goalkeeper Robert Popa after connecting with John Mark’s pull-out from the right. Nigeria were close to getting the equalizer in the additional minute but team captain Adeleke headed wide from close range despite connecting well with Kelvin Agho’s cross from the left.
Team captain Oluwatobi Adeleke said “We appreciate the Nigeria Football Federation for this great opportunity. The exposure and the platform will make us better. We came to Japan to learn and compete with three other continents.
Actually, we had our target to finish as the best team in the tournament, but we could not in spite of winning our first game. The exposure is important for us and we have learnt so much at this tournament.”
Nigeria finished third with three points from a possible nine, scoring five goals. The Future Eagles scored in all their three games.
The contingent is expected back in Abuja, Nigeria on Tuesday afternoon according to the Team Administrator, Adewale Adeyinka.
However, Japan emerged champions of the U16 International Dream Cup after defeating Mexico 5-0 in their final game on Sunday. Japan finished top with nine points, while Romania finished second. Nigeria were third with three points and Mexico finished bottom of the championship with only one point.