29th July, 2010
Despite the litany of goal scoring chances they missed in their semi final match against Colombia this evening, Nigeriaâ€™s Falconets managed a 1-0 victory to book their place in the final of the ongoing FIFA U-20 Women World Cup in Germany.
The Nigerian team, who now face hosts, Germany in the final of the competition on Sunday, had the tension soaked encounter under control but failed to convert some close opportunities against their South American opponents.
Ebere Orji shot Nigeria into the lead barely two minutes into the match after Colombiaâ€™s goalkeeper; Paula Forero failed to stop a long volley from Skipper Joy Jegede, which hit the cross bar to give Orji a sweet and easy rebound for the lone goal.
Orji was right inside the six yard box and did not waste the oppotunity as she cooly stopped the ball before slotting it into the waiting net. After the Falconetsâ€™ opener, the match became a dingdong affair with both teams launching long range balls into each otherâ€™s vital areas.
In the 25th minute of the clash, Falconetsâ€™ goalkeeper, Alaba Jonathan was called to duty and she was up to the task. She denied the South Americans a chance of drawing level with a superb save.
The encounter continued with near misses by Amarachi Okoronkwo and Desire Oparanozie while Colombiaâ€™s Natalia Gaitan found her name in the bad books of the centre referee.
Okoronkwo was also booked for foul play when the game got intense and the hostility reigned till the end of the first stanza.
At the resumption of the second half, the visibly tired Falconets maintained their superior ball control, but lost the ball each time they faced Colombiaâ€™s goal area.
This was evident in the 54th minute when the Nigerians could not find the back of the net, allowing begging chances to roll away. Substitute, Charity Adule added some pep to Falconetsâ€™ challenge, but a pass that found Oparanozie in the 56th minute was wasted.
In the 66th minute, Soo Adekwagh came in as substitute for Okoronkwo, but the new player also missed twice in her attempt to increase the tally for Nigeria, who broke the record as the first African team to qualify for the final of the FIFA U-20 Women World Cup.
In the final minutes, the Colombians turned the heat on the Nigerians but were denied the chance of getting the desired equalizer.
With barely five minutes to the end of regulation time, Orji had a clear chance again to wrap up the game but blew it with a wide shot. It looked as if the Nigerian ladies would score to consolidate their second minute lead, but the Colombian goalkeeper stood tall in her area till the referee signalled the end of the tie.
The Falconets departed Bielefeld.Stadium jubilating their progress with the Dr. Rafiu Ladipo-led Supporters Club, while the Colombians cried like kids after the match.
Meanwhile, Nigeria face free scoring Germans, who walloped South Korea 5-1 in the first semi final match played earlier today.
By Tunde Oyedele