By Andah John
Nigeria’s Falconets have crashed out of the Fifa U-20 Women’s World Cup in Papua New Guinea despite edging Spain 2-1 in their final group game as Japan trounced Canada 5-0.
The Falconets needed to beat Group B leaders Spain and hope for a slip by second-placed Japan in the group’s other game, to reach the final eight. But that was not meant to be as the Asians were too strong for the Canadian ladies.
The Nigerians came from behind thanks to a goal in each half from Ihuoma Onyebuchi and Chinwendu Ihezuo, after Alba Redondo had given the European side the lead.
The Spaniards got off to a swift start, with Maria Caldentey sending a ball inside the area. Nahikari Garcia touched it to Redondo who then beat goalkeeper Onyinyechukwu Okeke with a low shot.
Nigeria fight back
The Port Moresby crowd did not need to wait for long to see the Nigerians bounce back. Spain conceded their first goal after over three hours of football in Papua New Guinea. It happened when Charity Reuben nodded down a Nigerian corner, with Onyebuchi finding enough space and time to fire home from inside the penalty area.
Nigeria pushed forward in the closing moments of the opening half. But they were made to wait for their second goal, which came after the interval.
Falconets take the lead
Rasheedat Abijade hit a superb long ball towards Ihezuo, with the No 9 met by Carmen Menayo and Marta Cazalla in the Spanish defence. The Nigeria forward nodded the ball past the defenders and sprinted into space, before firing home a left-footed effort.
The African side played the final six minutes with ten players. Glory Ogbonna was the culprit as she picked up a second booking. But that mattered little, as Peter Dedevbo’s side held on for the three points.
Nigeria’s victory may not have guaranteed a quarter-final berth, but it stopped Spain from topping the group.