The Flamingos of Nigeria just about managed to cross the line in grabbing one of Africa’s three tickets to the Under-17 Women’s World Cup in India later in the year.
Ethiopia came to town with the sole purpose of overturning the 1 goal deficit inflicted on them by Bankole’s babes in Addis Ababa thereby grabbing the world cup ticket right from under Nigeria’s nose.
Tried as they did, the duel eventually ended 0:0 with Nigeria going through on a slim aggregare of 1:0.
These damsels have done themselves and the nation immensely proud and they deserve the adulations that come their way for coasting through the qualifiers undefeated whilst leaving their skid marks of 15 unreciprocated goals burning behind them.
Now it is time to start preparing for the world cup where far sterner tests await.
The Ethiopians pushed them all the way for qualification which provides a harbinger of what to expect in India.
It has to be recalled that the Flamingoes are the weakest of the Nigerian underage national teams football franchise across genders. This is because they are the only ones yet to win any medals in Fifa tournaments.
And owing to how Ethiopia – who have no pedigree in female football – came close to causing an upset in Abuja, one has to remind the Flamingos of the quality of teams out there.
In the second leg, Ethiopia cracked open Nigeria’s defence on occasions and they came a whisker away from drawing level on aggregare. The Flamingos held on by the skin of their teeth and ultimately they got the job done.
Already, we know heavyweights like Germany, France, United States, Mexico, Canada, Japan and Brazil will be in India. There will be no free lunch for Nigeria as they will be made to toil hard from the get-go.
The team is good and should get better in the coming months with more practice, drills and quality friendlies.
The last 2 tournaments were nothing to write home about for the Flamingos: they failed to qualify for the 2018 edition and crashed out of the group stages of the 2016 tournament in the middle eastern state of Jordan.
So, this Flamingos class of 2022 have their work cut out to succeed where they predecessors have faltered.
We will have to wait to see how they perform and grow into the tournament. A bit more tactical awareness and defensive solidity will serve them well against some of the best strikers on the planet at this level that they will come against.
They know how to score, however against a sturdy Ethiopian defence, they only managed 1 goal in 180 minutes of football. So, it goes without saying that, despite scoring 15 goals in this qualifying series, they still need to work on goalscoring particular against tough oppositions.
But for now, these girls should celebrate their world cup qualification long into the night, they deserve it. With the right mentality, thorough planning and injection of technical sagacity, they should hopefully exceed expectations in India.
Well done Flamingos, more grease to your elbows!