Nigeria’s Falconets crashed out of the 2018 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup after suffering a 2-1 defeat by Spain in their quarterfinal encounter in France.
The Falconets progressed to the quarterfinal after a draw, loss and win in their three group stage games while Spain finished comfortably in their group after two wins and a draw.
The game started at a high pace with both sides creating chances until the Spanish side seized control of the encounter with their consistent passing of the ball from side to side, working the Falconets up and down the pitch.
Spain earned a two-goal lead before the break, with Guijarro scoring her 5th goal in the tournament after getting on the end of Maite Oroz’s free-kick into the West African side’s box and scoring from close range.
Having struggled to create much in the first half, the Super Falconets responded with a goal just before the hour mark.
Peace Efih’s forward run saw her pick out Rasheedat Ajibabe on the left. Her low shot forced a diving Catalina Coll to direct the ball into the path of an unmarked Efih, who duly converted into an empty Spanish goal.
In the second half, Nigeria were unable to find an equaliser, as Spain saw out the remainder of the contest to reach the last four of the competition for the first time.
A highly –motivated Nigeria U-20 team is exuding the confidence of earning a place in the 9th FIFA U20 Women’s World Cup quarter-finals ahead of a potentially –explosive encounter with China in Dinan/Léhon on Monday.
Nigeria will reach the competition’s knockout stages for the seventh time in nine editions if they avoid defeat against the Chinese at the Stade de Clos Gastel.
A solitary strike from the penalty spot, by stand-in skipper Rasheedat Ajibade, earned the maximum points against Haiti on Thursday and took the Falconets to second spot in Group D, on goals balance from the Far East Asians, whose 2-1 defeat of Haiti and 0-2 loss to the Germans meant they have a deficit going into Monday’s decider in Brittany.
“It is going to be a very busy encounter from the first blast of the whistle. We are not expecting an easy match. I said from the beginning that if we must reach the Final, we have to play and overcome very tough teams.
“We have no illusions. The Chinese squad is a very ambitious one, and we have to be at our best to overcome them. We will go out there and give our very best,” Coach Chris Danjuma disclosed.
Certainly, the bigger pressure is on the Chinese, who have to win to secure a place in the last eight. A draw would be sufficient for Nigeria.
Right –wing optimists still expect goal-girl Rasheedat Ajibade to dazzle at this championship despite a slow start to the campaign, but many are those who have become impatient wondering when the FC Robo Queens ace forward will deliver on her awesome talent and promise at the World Cup finals.
She merely opened a window on her ability at the FIFA U17 World Cup in Costa Rica in 2014 (where Nigeria fell at the quarter-final hurdle) and could not make the difference when the Falconets were bumped at the group phase during the last World Cup finals in Papua New Guinea two years ago.
Highly rated at home and a firebrand finisher in African qualifying matches, Ajibade has yet to convince at the World Cup. However, Monday is another day and a spot in the quarter-finals could just fire her and the likes of Anam Imo, Chidinma Okeke and Peace Efih to sublime performance in France.
World Cup runners-up in 2010 and 2014, semi-finalists once and quarter-finalists on three occasions, only twice before have the Falconets failed to advance beyond the group phase at this championship. That was at the first edition in Canada in 2002, when a hurriedly assembled squad struggled, and two years ago, when the Nigerian girls were on the plane back home before the quarterfinals despite winning two of three matches and finishing with six points.
China’s fast-paced game could prove a handful for Nigeria, and the efficiency of long-limbed Chiamaka Nnadozie in goal and the stout defending of Sunday Opeyemi, Mary Ologbosere, Glory Ogbonna and Oluwakemi Famuditi would be required to keep the Asians at bay.
Nnadozie has been Nigeria’s revelation of this tournament so far, pulling off a number of magnificent saves against 2010 and 2014 champions Germany and against the Haitians. She was rewarded with the ‘Dare To Dream’ Player of the Match gong against the Haitians. This was a player who was down the pecking order during the African qualifying series when Onyinyechukwu Okeke held sway in goal.
To qualify for the finals, the Nigerian girls pumped nine goals past their Tanzanian counterparts without conceding any and then secured a 6-2 aggregate win over Morocco. In the final qualifying fixture, they blew South Africa apart 8-0 on aggregate, making for a total of 23 goals for and only two against.
Nigeria’s President, Muhammadu Buhari, has congratulated Wellington Jighere, a Nigerian who has emerged World Scrabble Champion in Perth, Australia.
President Buhari made the call on Sunday evening to felicitate with the Nigerian, who is the first ever from Africa.
Wellington Jighere (36) defeated Lewis Mackay of Cambridge, England, by 448 points to 426 to win the Championship which was competed for by 450 players from around the world.
Indomitable Nigerian Spirit
According to a statement from the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, the President congratulated the entire team on their success.
“I called to rejoice with you over your performance. You have done the country proud, and we are very happy. Please, pass my congratulations to other members of Team Nigeria,” President Buhari told Jighere.
The new Champion Jighere was delighted at the phone call from the President, and pledged to bring more glory to the nation.
Five other Nigerian representatives finished in the top 50 scrabble players in the world bracket.
He said: “This is a clear case of the indomitable Nigerian spirit. Such will soon be evident in all aspects of our national life”.
The Falconets had walked a tight rope after scraping just a 2-1 win over South Africa in Nigeria two weeks ago. With the away goal counting double rule, all that South Africa needed today was a single goal, but the Nigerian girls turned the table.
He said “This is a clear case of the indomitable Nigerian spirit. Such will soon be evident in all aspects of our national life”.
Nigeria’s Falconets have qualified for the 2016 FIFA Under-20 World Cup, following a 1-0 victory over South Africa on Sunday.
Nigeria dominated the early exchanges and it was no surprise when striker, Chinwendu Ihezuo, scored from a pull-out by defender Mary Ologbosere in the 16th minute, to increase the Falconets’ aggregate advantage to 3-1.
The Falconets had secured a 2-1 victory against the South African side in the first leg of the game in Nigeria.
In the Sunday game, South Africa continued to fight, but the Falconets held on till the end, and will be one of Africa’s two flag bearers at 2016 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in Papua, New Guinea.
Nigeria have always qualified for the tournament since its inception, finishing as runners up in 2010 and 2014.