By Harry Awurumibe, Africa’s No.1 Women Football Journalist
Nigeria’s junior women’s football team, the Flamingos on Monday edged out Chile to the quarterfinals ticket with a 2-1 victory in their FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup last group match in Bhubaneswar, India.
Flamingos’ forward Blessing Emmanuel put Nigeria ahead in just 4th minute of the important match which will determine the teams that will qualify for the quarterfinal of the competition from the group after Germany had already qualified by the virtue of winning two games against Nigeria and Chile.
With the early goal which was assisted by fast-paced Opeyemi Ajakaye,
Nigeria seized the momentum and dictated the pace of the match as the impressive attacker (Ajakaye) who has won back-to-back Player of the Match Awards, constantly running rings round the Chilean defence. Although Ajakaye is yet to find the back of the net in three group matches, she has been giving very impressive performances from the first minute of matchday one.
However, the Africans could not add any other goal despite the countless chances which they created in the first 45 minutes of the match, just as Chile spent the most part of the half defending with their goalkeeper, Catalina Alvarado stopping Ajakaye from scoring before the half time.
On resumption, Flamingos continued from where they stopped by taking the fight to the door steps of their opponents but met stubborn defence and very agile goalkeeper of Chile as obstacles.
But when it looked that the scoreline will remain unchanged, Bisola Mosaku hit the roof of Chile net in the 82nd minute after teammate Aminat Bello heading the ball down for her inside six yards box.
A late fight back by Chile saw Nigerian defender Mamuzo Edafe adjudged to have handled the ball in the box as the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) intervened. A long view of the screen by the center referee resulted to the award of a penalty.
Chile got one goal back with few minutes to the end of the match after hardworking Tali Rovner stepped forward to fire a low drive past the sprawling goalkeeper Joy Omilana. Head Coach Oloowokere Bankole was visibly agitated as he paced and screamed on the Flamingos to hold their nerves with few minutes to the end of the game.
Sensing elimination from the competition, Chile continued to press high in the added time and could have equalised when Omilana misjudged an aerial ball which she punched into corner but the kick was not taken as the referee ended the match with scores at 2-1in favour of Nigeria and a place in the last eight teams. Nigeria will either play USA or Brazil in the knockout stage.