THE Nigerian Falconets finish the group stage of the Under-20 Women’s World Cup with an immaculate record after beating their Canadian counterparts 3-1 at the Estadio Alajuela Morera Soto, Costa Rica.
The Canadians hit the woodwork within the first couple minutes of the game.
In the goal kick that followed, goalkeeper, Monle Oyono, was closed down in her 6-yard box by Canadian winger, Kaila Novak, and had her pass intercepted and deflected into the net.
It was a horrible start for the Falconets.
Nevertheless, they earned a chance to level the scoreline after Blessing Okpe’s shot struck a flailing arm in the box.
Esther Onyenezide took the penalty and struck a venomous shot in the opposite direction of the keeper.
The Nigerian attacking midfielder got the opportunity to double her tally after another found in the box by the Canadians.
After consulting the pitch-side monitor, the referee awarded the Falconets a penalty.
Again, Okpe slotted the penalty and took her tally for the tournament to three.
Nigeria took the initiative as the first half ran on, had a goal ruled out for offside, and forced the Canadian goalkeeper to several saves.
Rofiat Imuran’s crosses from the left-hand side threatened the opposition the entire game.
In stoppage time of the second half, her low cross found Chioma Olise at the back post, who applied the finish.
Before the match, Christopher Musa, who has been head coach of the Falconets since August 2017 had told the press that, “We would like to make it three wins out of three to maintain a great mental state –the winning mentality. If we are used to winning, it would be difficult for any team to bring us down.”
“It would be a mistake to reduce our pace and zest simply because we have qualified for the quarter-finals. We will still meet tougher teams ahead and the winning mentality is what will sustain us.”
“Game after game, we have been building strength. The game vs Canada is also one of those games that we want to improve on our work.”
The technical crew will be happy that the women showed determination and resilience akin to champions.
The Falconets began their Under-20 campaign last Friday with a goal-to-nil victory over France in a tightly contested affair.
In the dying embers of the match, Flourish Sabastine broke the deadlock. She latched on to a through ball from Mercy Idoko and guided it past the opposition keeper.
In a similar fashion, the women left it late to claim the win and qualification versus South Korea. Onyenezide scored from a thunderous long shot in the 85th minute to open her account for the tournament.
The Falconets concluded the group stages with maximum points for the first time in their tournament history. They would be eyeing their prospects in the knockout stages.