Golden Eaglets captain Kelechi Nwakali is keen to emulate his older brother Chidiebere who won the FIFA U-17 World Cup in 2013.
“I was in the pre-World Cup training squad in 2013 but I didn’t make the squad that went on to win the trophy,” Kelechi saidin an interview with FIFA.com. “My brother Chidiebere was there, though, and of course I felt proud and happy for the other players.
“I had to train at the academy and it would have been impossible for me to go. I didn’t have any contact with him during the tournament because he had to focus on playing. Obviously, I watched all the games on TV though.”
Eighteen months younger than his sibling, Kelechi was not even at home to welcome the returning hero, with football once again the culprit: “I was away playing in a tournament and I only saw him a week later. We spoke about everything and he said that what drove him on the most was his desire to make the people of Nigeria happy.”
Now the current Nigeria playmaker is burning with the desire to also win and return home as a hero from Chile.
He added: “We came here to retain the trophy. We want to win the title and we haven’t come for anything less.”
After topping their group and spanking Australia 6-0 in the round of 16, ghe Eaglets have raised expectations back home.
But to reach their target, they must fitst beat Brazil in the quarter-finals on Sunday from 8pm Nigerian time.
Nwakali is aware of the task ahead.
He said: “It’s a mistake to say that simply because we beat Australia 6-0 and they beat New Zealand 1-0. It doesn’t matter how they won. They won because they were better and that’s all we should be worried about.”
Nigeria defeated Brazil 3-2 at the Suwon friendly tournament a few months ago, but Nwakali, a big fan of Yaya Toure and Manchester City, insists Sunday’s meeting is a different ball game.
“It was just a friendly, and this game will be totally different,” he said. “It doesn’t matter what others say because we’ll never underestimate anyone, least of all Brazil.
“We’re young players and the one thing we have to strive for is to get better in every game. The only way we can win this competition is to surpass ourselves in each and every match, and we do that by listening to the coach. He’s the one who’s brought us here and he has the experience.
“I am sort of his right-hand man because he usually gives me instructions to pass on to the rest of my team-mates.
“The coach always tells us that when the game starts he can’t be on top of us all the time. He encourages us to think for ourselves and to make our own decisions.”
The young Nigerian gushes about his Ivorian role model is Toure: “I love watching him play because he loves to win. That’s all he wants. You can see it in the way he plays, the way he runs and even in the way he walks on the pitch.
“I want to play for a side that’s going places, like Manchester City.”