FIFA U-20 WWC: Nigeria’s Falconets on the March Again

By Harry Awurumibe, Africa’s No. 1 Women’s Football Journalist 

On the March Again. ..Nigeria’s Falconets ready to take on the world.

Less than 24 hours to the start of the 2022 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in Costa Rica, Nigeria’s junior women’s football team, Falconets, have another opportunity to claim the coveted trophy for the first time in history.

There is no better time for the highly successful U- 20 team to win a FIFA Women’s World Cup than in this 10th edition of the competition which is holding in Costa Rica from August 10 to 28, 2022.

Nigeria has a great reputation in the biannual football event which started as FIFA U-19 Women’s World Cup in 2002 in Canada. A hurriedly selected team led by late veteran women’s football coach, Ntiero Effiom Ntiero could not go beyond the first round in Canada.

But Nigeria has bounced back strongly to reach the final of the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup on two occasions. The Falconets lost in the final in 2010 and 2014 respectively.  Nigeria lost to Germany on the two occasions with the last one in Canada in 2014 by just an odd goal.

Also, Falconets have also finished in the fourth place in 2012 to show the intent to lift the coveted trophy one day, although the team crashed out in the quarter final  round in the 2018 edition in France. The team lost 0-1 to Germany, beat Haiti 1-0 and played out 1-1 with China PR in the group stage but lost 2-1 to Spain to crash out.

Now, the Nigerian girls have another opportunity to claim the big prize on August 28 in San Jose, Costa Rica but to reach the final, the Africans will have  to navigate their  way out of a tricky Group C comprising France,  South Korea and Canada as well as face other three countries before lifting the trophy.

However, it doesn’t come bigger than Nigeria’s first match in Group C  on Thursday against European heavyweights, France at Estadio Nacional in San Jose with kick off billed for 12 midnight Nigerian time. This interesting clash will determine the faith of the Falconets in the competition.

Should the most successful African women’s football team at the U-20 World Cup level beat their rivals and also get favourable results against Korea Republic and Canada and on Sunday, August 14 and next Wednesday, August 17 respectively, then hope of making it out of the Group C will rise. And if the Nigerian girls qualify to the next stage, there will be no stopping them.

This dream can only become a reality if the present squad put together by an experienced women’s football coach, Christopher Danjuma Musa can play to the potentials of the team which has some experienced players including Bashirat Amoo who was in the 2018 squad that features in France.

Aside Amoo, the present Falconets squad boasts of dependable defenders Oluchi Ohaegbulem, Chidinma Ogbuchi and team captain Blessing Demehin as well as midfielders Yina Adoo, Deborah Abiodun and Esther Onyenezide.

Yet, the Falconets parade goalpoachers  Flourish Sabastine, Mercy Idoko, Christabel Okwuchukwu, Blessing Okpe and fanciful Joy Jerry who will provide the goals needed to stay in the competition till the end.

Third Time Lucky ?…Falconets Head Coach Christopher Danjuma Musa explaining things to his players.

Three years ago in France, Nigeria managed to score two goals in four matches with Rasheedat Ajibade’s lone goal in 1-0 win over Haiti and Peace Efih’s one goal in the 2-1 loss to Spain in the second round summed up the misery that was coach Danjuma’s team on the five forwards.

This is why all eyes will be on Sabastine, Idoko,  Okwuchukwu, Okpe and Jerry to score the goals on the other side while Nigerian defenders will be expected to give cover to the firstchoice goalkeeper Nelly Ekeh or her deputies Monle Oyono and Peace Obidinma.

Interestingly, coach Danjuma who is not a new man in FIFA Women’s World Cup final at the three levels, after serving as an understudy to former Super Falcons coaches at different times and taking U-17 and U-20 women’s teams to FIFA Women’s World Cup in Jordan in 2016 and France 2018 respectively, has his work cut out for him in Costa Rica.

His team plays a high pressure game with Falconets known for attacking their opponents from the wings while maintaining a good balance in the midfield where Amoo, Abiodun and Onyenezide may run things for the Africans.

If the Falconets who have settled down in Costa Rica   found their rthym, the coveted trophy may be won by Nigeria this time around, although they will find the  French a hard nut to crack on Thursday.

France U-20 women’s football team

France parade quality players who are exposed to modern football at high level unlike the Nigerian girls who are playing in the not well structured local football league in Nigeria.

France has experienced goalkeeper Marie Morgane Sieber who will be guarded by defenders Thiniba Samoura, Alice Sombath and midfielders Julie Blanc and Kysha Sylla.

Nigeria’s backline will have to be extra vigilant with France duo deadly strikers, Ashley  Mbakem-Nario and Hawa Sangare, who are primed to explode in Costa Rica starting with the encounter with Nigeria.

In all, should Coach Danjuma and his team fail to reach the final in Costa Rica by beating every opposition starting with France then his employers, Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) who have given him more than enough latitude since 2012  will have to look to the directions of the coaches including coach Peter Devdewo, who took Nigeria to the Silver medals finish  on two occasions.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *