All the anxiety and fears going into the Falconets’ crunch encounter against South Africa in their final round first leg 2018 FIFA world cup qualifying match on 13 January were evaporated with a delicious and heart-warming 0:2 away win.
This was a ruthless Nigerian side who showed no respect to their hosts with a first half performance that was simply and utterly mind-blowing.
With all Nigerian fans expecting a tight match – to which many would have settled for a draw - the Falconets were ruthlessly efficient with goals in the 30th and 35th minutes to put the game beyond the young South African ladies in just the first half!
Shortly after the match, many Nigerian online media platforms reported on the victory to the delight of Nigerian fans at home and abroad who have started celebrating.
With the second leg to come in Benin City, Nigeria on January 27th, are Nigerian celebrations a bit premature?
The Under-20 FIFA World Cup is a biennial competition that was first held in 2002.
The fantastic Falconets of Nigeria have an impressive record in the tournament. We have participated in all 8 editions to date and have played some truly memorable matches in the tournaments.
Needless to say, Nigeria have the best records of any African teams at this level, reaching the knockout stages 6 times with the semi-finals 3 of those times.
More to the point, Nigeria have swept aside all African oppositions – big or small - to qualify for the previous tournaments and this time appears to be no exception thus far.
Also, Nigeria have produced some truly fantastic world class players from this level. These have
included the likes of Francesca Ordega, Esther Sunday, Asisat Oshoala and Desire Oparanozie. These players had been simply unstoppable in the continent.
In the present Under-20 Falconets squad, the likes of Rasheedat Ajibade, the Falconets’ top scorer in this qualifying series (who was too hot to handle for the South Africans), Glory Ogbonna, Bashirat Amoo, Grace Igboamalu, Imo, Ajibade and Folashade Ijamilusi are proving to be far ahead of their other African counterparts in class, quality and finesse.
Granted, in football, it is not over until it is over, so anything can still happen in the second leg.
Having said that, going by what we have seen thus far from our efficient Falconets, it is hard to see any team in Africa stopping them from reaching yet another FIFA world cup tournament - the dream is very much alive.