Abu Dhabi: It will be a case of deja vu for Nigeria and Mexico when they face each other in the finals of the Fifa Under 17 World Cup at Mohammad Bin Zayed stadium at 8pm on Friday.
Nigeria will be favourites, having thrashed the Mexicans 6-1 in their opening Group F game earlier in the tournament.
However, Mexico’s drastic improvement since that sorry loss means they will be no pushovers.
The defending champions came back strongly to beat Iraq 2-0 and Sweden 1-0 to reach the last 16, where they defeated Italy 2-0.
In the quarter-final last week, they edged Brazil in a thrilling penalty shootout after the game finished 1-1 and then, earlier this week, disposed of nine-man Argentina 3-0.
As such, they are confident of winning the coveted trophy again to join Brazil and Nigeria as record three-time winners of the event.
“We have unfinished business with Nigeria,” said Ivan Ochoa, Mexico’s two-goal hero against Argentina. “What is good about football is that it gives you the chance for revenge.”
Meanwhile, the Golden Eaglets are hoping to achieve history by becoming the first country to win the event four times.
“I promise our people back home that we will bring back the trophy,” Nigeria midfielder Abdullahi Alfa said.
In terms of the players to watch, Mexico’s right winger and goalkeeper Raul Gudino, who saved a penalty from Argentina’s Sebastian Driussi in the semi-final, will be key figures for their side.
For Nigeria, the driving forces will be midfielder Musa Yahaya, striker Kelechi Iheanacho and defender Musa Mohammad.
Manu Garba’s Nigeria charges have two significant statistics in their favour: They are yet to be beaten in the competition, and they boast the most prolific attack (23 goals). Third at Mexico 2011, Germany broke the record for the number of goals scored at the Fifa U-17 World Cup by finding the net no fewer than 24 times. After having surpassed their own benchmark of 20 goals, the Nigerians (23) now find themselves one strike away from equalling the Germans’ impressive haul. With two matches left to play and 164 goals already recorded, UAE 2013 looks likely to become the most prolific U-17 World Cup ever, surpassing Korea Republic 2007 (165).
Kelechi Iheanacho, Taiwo Awoniyi and Musa Yahaya spearhead a side that is constantly on the move and harasses the opposition with or without the ball, posing a serious challenge for any defence.
El Tri, meanwhile, have found the net with much less frequency (11 times), but can boast a compact unit that bounced back from their initial setback to eliminate Brazil and Argentina.
Live telecast on Al Jazeera Sport +3 from 7pm on Friday. The match kicks off at 8pm.