Following their victory over Canada, the Nigerian U-20 women’s team, the Falconets, went to the quarterfinals with a perfect record in the World Cup group stage.
At the ongoing 10th FIFA Under-20 Women’s World Cup in Alajuela, Costa Rica, the squad triumphed 3-1 on Wednesday.
Even though the Nigerian team had already qualified for the final eight, they were still considered favourites to win the game despite their spirited victories over France and Korea Republic.
In the game, they did give up their first goal of the tournament, but after tying it up, they never looked back.
Less than two minutes after the game’s start, goalkeeper Omini Oyono made a mistake in handling a backpass from Jumoke Alani, which led to a fortunate goal for Kala Novak.
“It was great for us to come back from that setback, and also concede first in the tournament. But we showed character and spirit after that, and that would be huge for us going forward in the competition,” team head coach Christopher Danjuma said after the match.
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They eventually caught up to Esther Onyenezide, whose terrific curving shot secured the Falconets all three points against the Korea Republic late in the game to advance them to the round of eight on Sunday.
In the 24th minute, she converted a penalty kick when Canadian defender Mia Pante touched a Blessing Okpe attempt within the penalty box.
With Deborah Abiodun back in the lineup after missing the match against the Koreans, the Falconets did appear calm and sure-handed in the middle.
Chiamaka Okwuchukwu, who started the game for the first time in the tournament, also had a powerful performance.
In the 15th minute, her forceful header from an Okpe cross nearly missed.
However, Onyenezide went on to score Nigeria’s first goal, also from the spot of a penalty kick, in the 32nd minute.
This came when Mercy Idoko attempted to head Rofiat Imuran’s inswinging ball after Simi Awujo had engaged in hazardous play against her.
Idoko nearly scored her first goal of the tournament during the extra time of the first session, but her touch off of another Imuran inswinger grazed the upright.
The Falconets improved their speed and space use in the second half of the game.
When Imuran again provided a brilliant cross to put up replacement Chioma Olise for Nigeria’s third goal, it came as no surprise.
The Falconets will play The Netherlands in the quarterfinals in Alajuela on Sunday thanks to their dominant performance in the group round.