The best player in every position in Golden Eaglets' history.
The Golden Eaglets of Nigeria are already out of the 2019 FIFA U17 World Cup campaign after their 3-1 loss to the Netherlands in the round-of-16.
With that loss, the Golden Eaglets fell short of delivering a sixth title and left us nostalgic of Nigeria’s victorious teams in this competition.
In this piece, we look at the best Golden Eaglets XI in Nigeria’s history.
The criteria used for this XI is their successful transition into Super Eagles and the measure of the success of their overall career.
Francis Uzoho (2013)
Uzoho’s journey into professional football started after he was included in the Golden Eaglets squad for the 2013 FIFA U17 World Cup. He, however, didn’t play a single game as Nigeria went ahead to win the title.
He was the third-choice goalkeeper in the squad and only made the cut due to an injury to Adeyinka Adewale who was the first choice when the team finished second at the Africa U17 Cup of Nations (AFCON) earlier in the year.
Since then, he joined Deportivo La Coruna via Aspire Academy in Qatar and made his La Liga debut for the Spanish club in October 2017.
His emergence that year coincided with an available goalkeeping spot at the Super Eagles and he benefited it from it to become Nigeria’s first-choice goalkeeper at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.
He lost his place in the starting XI ahead of AFOCN 2019 but has regained it again after a couple of fine performances for the Super Eagles.
Ogenyi Onazi (2009)
Onazi was just 16 when he played three times at the 2009 FIFA U17 World Cup where Nigeria finished second after losing in the final. He played for the U20 too before he was promoted to Super Eagles.
Although he wasn’t a regular, Onazi was part of the squad that won the AFCON title in 2013 but a year later, he as an undisputed starter for Stephen Keshi-side at the 2014 FIFA World Cup. In truth, the Super Eagles could not cope with his absence in midfield when he got injured in the 2-0 loss to France in the second round.
Onazi has also enjoyed a stable club career playing for the likes of Lazio in Italy and current club Trabzonspor. With Lazio, he won the Coppa Italia title in 2013.
Mobi Oparaku (1993)
Mobi Oparaku was an important player for the U17 side that won Nigeria’s second FIFA U17 World Cup title, playing every game as a defender to help the Golden Eaglets all through the final.
He moved up to the U23 where he also played an important role in the popular gold medal win at the 1996 Olympic Games.
Although he made it to the Super Eagles, Oparaku could not manage up to 10 appearances for Nigeria’s senior national team.
The defender also had a well-travelled club career playing for clubs in several countries including Belgium, the United States,
Kenneth Omeruo (2009)
Now a bonafide Super Eagles star, Kenneth Omeruo was part of the Golden Eaglets team that got to the final and finished second at the 2009 FIFA U17 World Cup on home soil. Omeruo played all the games and scored a goal as Nigeria went all the way to the final before they lost to Switzerland.
After that, he moved up to the U20 where he played for the Flying Eagles who got to the quarterfinals of the 2011 FIFA U20 World Cup in Colombia.
At the age of 19, he was invited to the Super Eagles and became a surprise regular as Nigeria went on to win AFCON 2013 title. Since then, he has played at two FIFA World Cup tournaments and in the recent AFCON where he was one of Super Eagles best players.
Omeruo was signed by Chelsea in 2012 and although he never got to play for the team, he has had a stable career with several top-flight clubs across Europe. These days he plays his football with La Liga side Leganes.
Celestine Babayaro (1993)
One of Nigeria’s most prolific left-backs in history, Celestine Babayaro was an important part of the Golden Eaglets squad that won the World Cup title in 1993. He moved up to the U23 side and won the gold medal with the Dream Team at the 1996 Olympic Games where he scored in the final against Argentina. He also captained the Olympic squad at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sidney.
He moved up to the Super Eagles where he held down the left-back position for several years and played in two FIFA World Cup tournaments and three AFCON tourneys.
Babayaro is also one of the most well-known names in Nigerian football having played for Chelsea during the time when the Premier League was becoming very popular. He won three titles for Chelsea including the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup in 1998 and the FA Cup in 2000. Before then he won the Belgian league title with Anderlecht in 1995.
John Mikel Obi (2003)
One of Nigeria's greatest players, Mikel Obi was part of the Golden Eaglets squad that failed to progress past the group stage of the 2003 FIFA U17 World Cup. He, however, became more successful as he moved up, reaching the final of the FIFA U20 World Cup in 2005. For the Super Eagles, he won AFCON 2013 while playing all the games and later led Nigeria’s U23 team to win bronze at the football event of the 2016 Olympic Games.
Mikel played in two FIFA World tournaments and five AFCON competitions.
The midfielder won everything in club football at Chelsea including the Premier League, Champions League, FA Cup, Europa League and League Cup.
Wilson Oruma (1993)
Oruma was Golden Eaglets' captain as Nigeria won the 1993 FIFA U17 World Cup title in Japan. Oruma was very impressive in Japan, scoring six goals from midfield to finish to finish as top scorer.
The midfielder went on to play two games for Nigeria’s U23 who stunned the world to win the gold medal in the football event of the 1996 Olympic Games.
He moved up to the national team as well and but stayed in Austin 'Jay Jay' Okocha’s shadows for most of his international career. He made an appearance and scored a goal at the 1998 FIFA World Cup and was one of Super Eagles’ best players at AFCON 2002.
Oruma managed a fine club career playing for the likes of Marseille, Guingamp, Lens etc. He won Ligue 1 with Lens and some domestic cup titles in France with Guingamp and Sochaux.
Kanu Nwankwo (1993)
Arguably, the greatest Nigerian player of all time, Kanu hit the limelight when he scored five goals en route Golden Eaglets’ triumph at the Japan 13.
Three years later, he did it bigger, leading Nigeria to a historic gold medal in the football event of the 1996 Summer Olympics. He recovered from a heart-related issue to play at the 1998 FIFA World Cup. For the Super Eagles, he made 86 appearances which included games in nine major tournaments- six AFCON and three FIFA World Cup tourneys.
In club football, Kanu won titles everywhere he played from Iwuanyanwu Nationale to Ajax, Inter Milan, Arsenal and Portsmouth.
He remains the last Nigerian player to win the African Player of the Year award, something he won twice, 1996 and 1999.
Jonathan Akpobrie (1985)
Akpobrie was part of the team that won Nigeria’s first title at this competition in 1985 and scored in the final against the then West Germany. He went on to play for the Flying Eagles and also moved up the Super Eagles where he made the squad for three AFCON tournaments.
For his club career, he played for the likes of Stuttgart and Wolfsburg. He played in the final of the 1998 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup for Stuggart.
Samuel Chukwueze (2015)
Chukwueze first played for Nigeria at the 2015 FIFA U17 World Cup where he made six appearances and scored three goals for the victorious Golden Eaglets.
He stayed away from the limelight after that before his debut season for Villarreal where he shone. His performance for Villarreal earned him a call up to the Super Eagles in November 2018 and he has been a consistent player for the national team since then.
He was one of Super Eagles exciting players at AFCON 2019, scoring one goal as Nigeria finished third.
Victor Osimhen (2015)
The latest sensation that came off a winning Golden Eaglets team. Victor Osimhen scored 10 goals to finish the highest goalscorer and was also the second-best player of that tournament. With several clubs interesting after his fantastic performance at the 2015 FIFA U17 World Cup, he joined Wolfsburg although it didn’t work out there.
His career got back on track after a move to Belgium before he joined Lille in France where he has continued to thrive.
He made his Super Eagles debut in June 2017 but he wasn’t a regular in the team until 2019. With Odion Ighalo retiring from the national team, Osimhen is now Super Eagles first-choice No 9 and big things are expected from.