R-E-V-E-A-L-E-D: Why Falconets crashed out of Costa Rica 2022 

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

Failed Mission…Falconets Class of 2022 failed to better the achievements of the 2010 and 2014 Sets that won the Silver Medals in the past editions.

Like Super Eagles in Cameroon 2022, Nigeria’s U-20 women’s football side, Falconets flattered to deceive at the 2022 FIFA Women’s World Cup final in Costa Rica as the team was bundled out in the quarter final stage despite winning all three group matches at a stretch.

Infact, Nigeria was like the proverbial antelope which danced itself lame during a rehearsal section before the real dance started after the spectators have converged at the arena.
Nigeria had defeated pre-tournament power-houses France 1-0, courtesy of Flourish Sebastine late goal in the first Group C match while Esther Chinemerem Onyenezide’s long-range strike late in the second group match helped Nigeria beat Korea Republic 1-0 to earn the West Africans six points from two games  which ensured a quarter final place with one match to spare. 
Nigeria also thrashed another tough side, Canada 3-1 in the last group match with Onyenezide again scoring a brace from the spot while Chiamaka Okwuchukwu scored the other goal to make Nigeria the second country after Japan  to record three wins from three games in Costa Rica. 
With the  impressive performances in  the group stage, which saw the team score five goals and conceeding just one, Nigerians and football fans around the world expected the Falconets’ fiery tales story to continue in the quarter final stage when they faced another European country Netherlands. 

One of the Stars of Costa Rica 2022…Flourish Sabastine scored Nigeria’s lone goal victory over France.

But, like their

Nigeria’s highest goalscorer Esther Onyenezide scored a stunner against Korea Republic and a brace in the 3-1 defeat of Canada.

senior brothers Super Eagles did earlier in January at the 2021 African Cup of Nations (AFCON) in Cameroon, where the Eagles won three group matches but was eliminated in the second round by Tunisia in a dramatic fashion. 

The scenario was the same last week Monday morning when Nigeria and Netherlands clashed in the winner-take-all quarter final match at Estadio Alejandro Morera Soto, Alajuela as the Falconets could not reenact earlier round performances, which saw them winning all three group phase matches.
A lethargic Nigerian team was dogged by poor finishing, hard luck and technical and tactical deficiencies, which made them lose to the Netherlands 2-0 despite a late rally in the second half to salvage the game.
Two first half goals scored by Zera Hulswit and Ziva Henry gifted the Netherlands victory over Nigeria and ensured that the Africans were eliminated in the quarter final stage, a poor outing for a country that had played twice in the final of the previous editions of the competition in 2010 and 2014 respectively. 
Speaking at a  post-match press conference, Head Coach Christopher  Danjuma Musa acknowledged that  his players lost to the Netherlands because they could not take advantage of their chances during the encounter.
Said he: “This is football when your opponent capitalizes on your mistake and they punish you for that. I think we had these few mistakes starting and we were punished for it and we had our chances and we could not take it”.
Speaking further he said “Football is all about taking your chances. But it is just unfortunate because nobody wants to go into the game and lose. We wanted to go all the way, but it did not happen.”
But with the pedigree of Nigeria in the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup level coupled with the quality of players in his squad, Danjuma can only have himself to blame for not taking Nigeria all the way to the final in Costa Rica. 
The Falconets Class of 2022 have a collection of future stars like forwards: Flourish Sabastine, Chioma Olise, Chiamaka Okwuchukwu, Joy Jerry and Mercy Idoko. There are also enterprising midfielder Esther Onyenezide, Deborah Abiodun, Bashirat Amoo and Chinyere Kalu.

Head Coach Christopher Danjuma Musa. ..His team failed the Netherlands’ Litmus Test as Nigeria was beaten 2-0 in the quarter final match.

Yet, Danjuma’s team had the full compliments of dependable defenders in  team captain Oluwatosin Demehin, Omowunmi Oshobukola, Rofiat Imuran and Jumoke Alani who held their own in spectacular fashion until the match against the Netherlands. 

Firstchoice goalkeeper, Monle Oyono was so good that the second and third goalkeepers Nelly Ekeh and Peace Obidinma just went on sight-seeing in Costa Rica, although she fumbled once in the 3-1 victory over Canada.
A technically sound coach should not have lost to a younger Coach Jessica Torny led Netherlands in the manner Nigeria collapsed last Monday just Danjuma should not have set up his team to go on early offensive against more tactically superior Dutchwomen.
A ‘wait and see’ attitude would have  enabled the Falconets’ midfielders to drop deep into their own half to support the defenders to curtail the rampaging Dutch attackers Zera Hulswit and Ziva Henry who scored in the 11th and 33rd minutes.
The Nigerians who are known for late goals in the group stage with victories against France and Korea Republic should have sat back, absorbed the Dutch pressures and wait for a late raid or play for a penalty shoot-out. 
However, those who know Coach Danjuma’s tactics will understand that he likes his team to press high in every match and would never opt for a conservative play hence they will go toe to toe with every opposition. 

Back to Base…Falconets on arrival in Abuja last week

Also, his teams at every competition he has been are goal-shy as can be seen in two previous FIFA U-17 and U-20 Women’s World Cup final in Jordan in 2016 and France in 2018 respectively. In each occasion, the Nigerian U-17 and U-20 did not score more than three goals in three and for matches. 

It was therefore going to be difficult for Nigeria to reach the last four teams in Costa Rica as teams with superior technical ability will always hurt Nigeria and that happened when the Falconets met the Netherlands.
Although the Falconets’ defeating France and Canada should be a consolation to the team, the incoming Executive Committee of Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) must look above sentiments to appoint the next sets of national teams coaching crew if Nigeria must stop making up numbers of participants in the FIFA and Confederation of Africa Football (CAF)  football competitions and beginning to contest for the top prizes.

Leave a Reply

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