Mexico's Jose Almanza is challenged by Musa Muhammed of Nigeria during their FIFA U17 World Cup match at Khalifa Bin Zayed Stadium on October 19, 2013 in Al Ain, United Arab Emirates. (Photo: FIFA via Getty Images)
AL AIN CITY, UAE – In a battle of past champions, Kelechi Iheanacho scored four goals and Nigeria defeated Mexico 6-1 in the opening Group F match for each at the FIFA U-17 World Cup on Saturday at Khalifa Bin Zayed Stadium.
The CONCACAF champion controlled much of the early going, but could not convert its possession into goals. Once the Nigerians developed a rhythm, however, they proved nearly impossible to stop.
With his first goal in the 33rd minute, Iheanacho gave Nigeria a 1-0 lead. Success Isaac broke into the left side of the Mexican box and attempted a shot that was blocked by Mexico goalkeeper Raul Gudino, who ventured far out his net. The ball rolled back to Isaac and he sent a pass on the ground for Iheanacho to hammer home.
Iheanacho doubled the Nigeria’s advantage in 40th minute by shaking off multiple defenders in the area with some tidy dribbling, before coolly stroking a left-footed shot beyond Gudino from 12-yards out.
Mexico halved the deficit one minute later through Ulises Jaimes. The Nigerian defense struggled to deal with a left-sided cross into its area as the ball fell to the Morelia youth product. He took a touch around Samuel Okon going left, cut the ball back to his right and netted from 13-yards out.
The second half belonged to Nigeria as it scored four more times without reply.
In the 49th minute, Iheanacho’s third tally restored the Africans’ two-goal cushion. From the left side, Okon sent a throw-in towards the near post for Chidera Ezeh to head backwards. The unmarked Iheanacho ran on to the ball and fired past Gudino with his left foot.
Chidiebere Nwakali put the game out of reach in the 52nd minute with an unexpected effort from nearly 30-yards out that bounced just inside the left post.
The influential Isaac made it 5-1 at the hour mark and, in the 70th minute, Iheanacho completed the scoreline with his fourth goal, a left-footer from 22-yards that tipped slightly off Gudino’s outstretched hands.
"The result speaks for itself, we definitely did not expect such a result,” said Mexico head coach Raul Gutierrez afterwards. “Those first 25 minutes, we were excited about what could happen. The result nobody expected, not expected. It is unfortunate. We are angry and in that sense there are two games to put everything right and clean this bad performance we had."
Mexico, which won the 2011 U-17 World Cup, will look to bounce back against Iraq – a 4-1 loser to Sweden -- on Tuesday.