Nigeria's under-17 women's team aka The Flamingoes have been aware for some time now of the teams that stand between them and successful passage to the quarter-finals of the youth women's world cup next month.
Germany, New Zealand and Chile are the names now etched in the minds of Bankole’s babes.
Coach Bankole, whose team were unstoppable in qualifiers, expects to unleash a formidable outfit in the tournament. “[With] a little more tactical tweak in the way we played in the qualifying matches, we shall be a big threat to any country in India,” he declared.
So, how are the Flamingos expected on paper to fare against each of these teams?
I take a look at this below.
1) Germany: the European teenage ladies surprisingly do not have a stellar record in the tournament with a third place podium finish in 2008 as their greatest achievement to date at this level. However, they are the current European U-17 women's champions.
Prognosis: without a shadow of doubt, Germany will provide the sternest test for the Flamingos in the group stages.
The Europeans, who are serial European championship winners, should bring to bear the world class level of efficiency, organisation and tactical acumen that Germany are known for in football in all levels across gender.
Nigeria have never faced Germany in the under-17 women's world cup, so Bankole’s damsels will want to give a good account of themselves.
For me, looking through rose tinted glasses, the best case scenario for Nigeria is a draw against Germany.
2) Chile: the young South American ladies limped to this world cup by managing to win just 3 out of their 7 qualifiers with a minus 7 goals difference.
This will be their second outing in the Under-17 women's world cup since 2010 where they crashed out in the group stages winless.
Prognosis: the omens are in Nigeria's favour to run out winners against Chile. In the only game that Nigeria met Chile at this level of World Cup in 2010, Ordega (1), Ayila (a hattrick) and Okobi (1) powered the Flamingos to an emphatic 5:0 victory.
Without being disrespectful, this should be a sure-banker 3 points for the kitty for Bankole’s babes.
3) New Zealand : the 'Young Female Ferns', as they are known, have a pedigree in this tournament having won bronze medals once in 2018.
They are also serial winners in their continental championships with no less than 4 gold medals between 2010 and 2017.
Nigeria will be meeting New Zealand for this first time in this tournament's history.
Prognosis: the dashing young ladies from Oceania present a potential banana skin for the Flamingos. One has to speculate that the battle for the second quarter final ticket in the group will be between Nigeria and New Zealand with Germany taking the top slot.
I will gamble on a slim victory for the Flamingos in this one but it will definitely not come easy.
In short, I firmly expect the Flamingos to navigate themselves out of the group where they will likely face the United States or Brazil in a mouthwatering quarter final.
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