Nigeria’s Falconets scored a dramatic late goal to force China to a 1-1 draw, and the result was good enough to send the Coach Christopher Danjuma tutored girls into the quarter-final of the U-20 Women’s World Cup taking place in France.
The Nigerian team went into their final group game against China knowing that a draw will be enough to secure a place in the quarter-final of the competition, while the Chinese will need nothing short of an outright win to qualify.
The Falconets of Nigeria narrowly lost 1-0 in their Group D opener against the three-time world champions, Germany but returned to winning ways in their second game against Haiti courtesy of Rasheedat Ajibade’s lone goal from the spot kick.
China, on the other hand, started their World Cup campaign on a winning note, the Chinese secured a 2-1 victory against debutant Haiti and lost 2-0 to Germany in their second game last Thursday.
The Falconets started the match against the Chinese at the Stade de Clos Gastel determined to get a result that will seal a quarter-final berth for the team, the early exchanges between both teams were even and chances were far and in between.
The game sparked into life in the 41st minute as the Chinese took a well-deserved lead through Linyan Zhang, who scored a solo goal after ghosting past three Nigerian defenders before side-footing a shot into the Nigerian net and the Nigerian goalkeeper Nnadozie could hardly do anything to prevent the goal.
The scores remained 1-0 in favour of the Chinese as the team went into the halftime break. On resumption of the second stanza, the Chinese girls continued to dictate and control the pace of the game. The Falconets found it difficult to retain possession and carve out meaningful chances to score the needed equaliser.
The Chinese on several occasion had glorious chances to double their lead and take the match beyond the reach of the Nigerians but they failed to punish the Falconets for their defensive lapses and paid dearly for it in the tail end of the game.
The Falconets broke the hearts of the Chinese team with a late goal scored by Rasheedat Ajibade in the 94th minute deep into added time to secure a dramatic qualification into the last eight for the Falconets of Nigeria.
The qualification into the knockout stage is the seventh time Nigeria will be making it past the group stages in nine editions. The Falconets have been U-20 Women’s World Cup runners-up in 2010 and 2014, semi-finalists once and quarter-finalists on three occasions, and only twice has the Falconets failed to advance beyond the group phase of the competition.
The Coach Chris Danjuma girls will square up with Spain in the quarter-final, the Falconets played Spain in the group stages of the last World Cup in Papua New Guinea, Nigeria won 2-1 with goals by Ihuoma Onyebuchi and Chinwendu Ihezuo giving the Falconets victory.