Nigeria vs France : 1 - 0, Retrospective Review
It was always a headline to pull at the heartstrings of Super Falconets fans: European Champions consisting of Champions League players 0: Homebased Falconets of Nigeria 1, it doesn't read sweeter, or taste yummier than that.
Not a lot of fans expected this scoreline as a draw would have been more than sufficient against an eloquent side that put Ghana to the sword just recently. It is safe to say that Danjuma's damsels exceeded all expectations in this encounter.
But the question is, can they exceed expectations for the remainder of the tournament? For me it is too soon to call.
Their performance yesterday was electric and the outcome was electrifying but I am praying that they don't peak too early.
Affable coach Chris Danjuma, who received one of the warmest hugs I have ever seen from a rival female coach yesterday after the match, talked up the Indomitable Nigerian spirit ahead of this match.
That Nigerian spirit however comes in handy when a Nigerian national team have their backs against the wall.
Whenever they experience early success, they seldom seem to know how to manage that success: complacency creeps in and failure follows (may that not be the portion of this Falconets team).
So, Danjuma now needs to call on something beyond 'Nigerian Spirit' for the remainder of the competition.
Against France yesterday, his team were on top form. Both teams had sought to cancel each other out which made for a cagey, yet enthralling, engaging and entertaining encounter.
And when Sebastian latched on to an eloquent defence splitting through pass from Idoko in 85 minutes, the outcome was inevitable as she raced through and stabbed in with fiendish intent for Nigeria's only and winning goal - little wonder she was carried into the dressing room like a princess for her priceless goal against one of the most formidable outfit Nigeria would face in the tournament.
The question was whether the players would carry through their bombastic displays on the continent to the global stage against illustrious oppositions and the players answered in emphatic style.
Idoko, Sebastian, Onyenezide, Demehin and Imuran all gave exemplary performances. The other players were equally business-like, focused, professional and exciting to watch.
Starting with a loosely looking 4-4-2 formation, it shape-shifted to the 4-3-3 used in qualifiers and diamond 4-4-2 (which led to the goal as a withdrawn centrally located Idoko had the option of 2 strikers to pick from with the wingers behind her and a defensive midfielder behind them).
In the first half, Nigeria crowded out the French thus preventing the Europeans from settling into a rhythm. Esther Onyenezide injected flair into the game with nifty footworks and eloquent swivels to peel off her markers.
Before the rain-induced suspension, Nigeria were surprisingly the aggressors having started like a house on fire.
Nigeria tried to play out from behind on occasions and also attempted long balls but the French did match our physicality and they too stifled a lot of Nigeria's attacking initiatives from midfield before reaching deep in their box 18.
Rofiat Imuran was driving the ball forward from left back with silky skills and Esther Onyenezide was delivering some neat crosses with Nigeria winning freekicks in delicate areas. But the game remained cagey but fun to watch nonetheless.
As the first half drew to a close, a freekick delivery from Demehin was embarrassingly wayward; Nigeria defended corners with 2 players by each goalpost which was reassuring; Nigeria's crosses lacked conviction severally; our defenders (particularly fullbacks) were quick to come out thus being easily drawn out of position and a careless side short pass to the goalkeeper by fullback Alani went unpunished.
In the second half, both teams continued to slug it out deep in midfield with France somewhat getting the best of the exchanges as they were slowly growing into the match. Sebastian was felled in box 18 but there was nothing-doing from the referee or VAR.
Our fullbacks and defensive midfielders continued to coordinate and combine to keep France at bay which created openings for France along our flanks.
Esther Onyenezide was showing glimpses of what she offers with silky wing play and crosses that almost led to a goal but Idoko's sublime shot after flooring 2 French defenders drew an excellent foot save from the goalkeeper - Esther will be a handful for defenders in games to come.
Demehin was also having a fabulous game at the back - running to the line of fire to effect telling interceptions and also floating at speed to support her right fullback Alani. Demehin - a truly inspirational leader.
Before her goal, Sebastian bobbed and weaved across 2 defenders to the byline before cutting the ball back into danger.
The 80th minute saw France' goal off a corner kick chopped off by VAR for goalkeeper obstruction before Idoko's through pass and Sebastian's lightning run and frightening finish saw Nigeria take the day in thrilling style.
In summary, Danjuma's femme fatales were coherent and articulate in their play across the park. That said, deliveries from crosses and set piece routines can be better.
The Falconets are (surprisingly) in superb physical shape. Yesterday, they were well conditioned athletes with exceptional mental fortitude and physical agility. Players like Imuran, Sebastian and Onyenezide injected flair into their game.
Their game was refined in areas and they exhibited high quality chemistry that is ample reward for all the months they spent together. They had a clear vision and a game plan which was carried out to the letter.
You cannot praise them enough for this heartwarming victory against a powerhouse of world football across levels and gender. The Falconets have definitely set a marker with this victory and their status as tournament favourites is fully formed.
Danjuma just has to be mindful of not falling into the satanic trappings of early success. The NFF should pay all bonuses as and when due.
With a continued business-like approach, focus and dedication with all the players firing on all cylinders, this team will cruise at the right altitude for the remainder of the tournament.
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