After two victories with the latter coming against South Korea, Falconets retained a perfect start in the group stage following their 3-1 victory over Canada in the early hours of this morning. They gained all nine points in the group C and ended as the group toppers. They will play Netherlands next in their quarter-final game on Monday at exactly 1am Nigeria time.
The Falconets were charged to keep the winning momentum alive despite securing a quarter-final spot after the first two games against France and South Korea by head coach Danjuma Musa.
Africa’s best team conceded their first goal of the competition in an accidental manner, following goalkeeper Omini Oyono’s poor management of a back pass from Jumoke Alani that granted Kala Novak a fortuitous goal in less than two minutes.
“It was great for us to come back from that setback, and also conceding first in the tournament. We showed character and spirit, and that would be huge for us going forward in the competition,” Musa said after the match.
Midfield impresario Esther Onyenezide, whose vicious curling shot earned all three points against Korea Republic late on, to send the Falconets into the last eight on Monday morning, scored from the penalty spot in the 24th minute to pull the Falconets level. Defender Mia Pante had handled the ball from a Blessing Okpe shot in the box.
The Falconets looked composed and sure footed in the middle with the return of Deborah Abiodun, who sat out the encounter with the Koreans, and Chiamaka Okwuchukwu also played an inspired game after starting for the first time in the tournament. Her firm header from a Blessing Okpe cross in the 15th minute missed the goal post narrowly.
Onyenezide shot Nigeria ahead, also from the spot, in the 32nd minute, after Simi Awujo’s dangerous play against Mercy Idoko, as the latter went for a header from Rofiat Imuran’s inswinger, was penalized.
In the added time of the first period, Idoko came close to scoring her first goal of the tournament, but her touch from another Imuran inswinger kissed the upright.
In the second half, the Falconets added pace and brilliant use of space to their game, and it was no surprise when Imuran, again with a visionary cross, set up substitute Chioma Olise for Nigeria’s third goal.