It took Nigeria’s Samuel Chukwueze no more than 25 seconds to write his name in the tournament record books on Tuesday, scoring a quick-fire goal that put the Africans on the road to a 5-1 defeat of hosts Chile and into the last 16 of the FIFA U-17 World Cup 2015.
The hard-running midfielder’s well-taken strike was the third-fastest goal in the history of the competition, exceeded in speed only by Brazilians Fabinho at Korea 2007 and Celso at Peru 2005, who took only nine and 14 seconds respectively to find the back of the net.
“Seriously?” asked the smiling and softly spoken Chukwueze when told by FIFA.com of his achievement. “I had no idea, but it’s an honour to know that my name is part of the history of a World Cup. I never imagined anything like this. It makes me feel proud.”
Though he may be shy and retiring off the pitch, there is nothing restrained about Chukwueze’s performances on it. As well as scoring twice against the hosts, he also forced three penalties with his driving runs, two of which were converted. The only goal he had no part to play in was his side’s fifth.
“I know I did well today, but I still have a lot of work to do to improve,” said Chukwueze, a product of the Diamond Football Academy. “I try to base my game on that of Arjen Robben, who can run with the ball at speed, score goals and set them up too. I want to be an all-round player like him.”
The youngster served early notice of his striking prowess at the 2013 Iberian Cup in Estoril, when, at the age of only 14, he scored the small matter of 12 goals in seven matches for Nigeria’s U-17s.
That same year he followed the Golden Eaglets’ triumphant progress at the U-17 world finals in UAE closely, looking on in awe as compatriot Kelechi Iheanacho played a starring role and collected the adidas Silver Boot: “He showed a lot of power and quality and he’s now with Manchester City. The English Premier League is my favourite league and the one I watch the most.”
Turning his attention back to Chile 2015 and the job in hand, Chukwueze believes Nigeria have much more to offer after their exhibition against Chile. “It wasn’t the perfect game by any means,” said the No8. “I think we can play better if we work on our concentration.”
Nigeria wind up their Group A campaign against Croatia, a side they beat in the final of a friendly competition not so long ago. Will that victory have a bearing on their confidence going into the game? Not according to Chukwueze: “Absolutely not. We showed against Chile that we have a strong mentality and nothing will make us lose it.”