Four years after being smashed by eventual champions Nigeria at the FIFA Under 17 World Cup, Australia’s Joeys produced a spirited display to advance to the last 16.
Germany-based Noah Botic continued his stellar tournament with a brace, while Sydney FC keeper Adam Pavlesic held firm amid an early peppering from Nigeria as well as a some late attempts to equalise in the 2-1 win at Estadio Bezerrao in Brasilia.
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It was Australia’s first win against Nigeria — who won the 2013 and 2015 U17 World Cups — at this level in seven attempts.
While the Joeys were under siege early, the front three of Botic, Caleb Watts and Tristan Hammond caused huge issues for Nigeria and combined to open the scoring.
Sporting Lisbon’s Hammond beat several players down the left using clever trickery before crossing for well positioned Botic to tap in the opener.
Nigeria’s Ukeme Olawale equalised just eight minutes after the Joeys’ opener, leaving it level at the break, but the brave Joeys kept pushing, knowing a win was necessary to advance to the knockout phase.
Cameron Peupion of Australia wins the ball in a battle with Nigeria’s Quadri Edun. Picture: FIFA/Getty Images
Southampton’s Watts won the penalty after a piercing run into the box and a composed Botic stepped up, waited for the keeper to commit before slotting home his fourth goal of the tournament.
“An exciting finish for us. We came here to win games, although Nigeria was fantastic, we got the result and we got something we deserve out of this group,” Joeys coach Trevor Morgan said.
“They had to dig deep, they played an excellent team with great quality and physical capacity
we had to defend well, which is important. But we kept concentrating and working hard.
“We have to wait and see results now. We won this, it helps us continue, but it’s a real plus for the boys’ belief and commitment to come here and play a top team and win.”
Ecuador’s 3-2 win over Hungary means the Joeys finished third in the group, qualifying as one of the best third-place teams.
The Joeys, who failed to qualify for the last FIFA U17 World Cup in 2017, will hope to improve on their 2015 outing when they also qualified for the last 16 only to be humbled 6-0 by Nigeria.