The 10th edition of the Fifa Under-20 women's world cup fiesta kicks off in the summer in Costa Rica. Nigeria's Falconets have graced all of the tournaments since inception in 2002 with two runners up medals, one fourth place and four quarter-final finishes against their name.
The idea is to use this tournament to discover future stars in the women's game.
As we count down to this year's installment, I take a look at my top 11 former Falconets who have gone on to have illustrious and stellar careers as full fledged Super Falcons players.
1: Rita Chikwelu - the 34 year old midfielder, who still remains a mainstay of the current Super Falcons outfit, was part of Nigeria's squad to the 2004, 2006 and 2008 under-19 and Under-20 women's world championships in Thailand, Russia and Chile respectively. The Falconets reached the quarter-finals on each of those occasions, losing to Germany, Brazil and then France.
The Asaba born stocky playmaker has no less than 33 caps for the Super Falcons with 15 goals since her senior debut in 2007. In a career spanning 15 years, Rita has amassed no less than two WAfcon gold medals to her name.
She has been a valuable addition to Nigeria's midfield over the years.
2: Tochukwu Oluehi - the 35 year old goalkeeper was in the Falconets squad to the 2006 Under-20 women's world championship in Russia where the team lost to Brazil in the quarter final.
The Isreal based net minder is considered in many quarters as currently one of the best female goalkeepers in Africa. In a career spanning no less than 12 years, Oluehi has attended three senior world cups, 1 Olympic games and a number of WAfcon tournaments with the Super Falcons.
She is a household name and a trendsetter for future Falcons goalkeepers.
3: Desire Oparanozie - the 28 year old deadly centre forward introduced herself to Nigeria's football scene as part of the record setting Falconets squad to the 2010 Under-20 women's world championship in Germany. She scored two goals as Nigeria traversed all the way to the final for the first time only to lose to hostesses Germany.
But Nigeria fans were immensely proud of what the team achieved after previous quarter final heartaches.
She would also feature in the 2012 edition in Japan where she scored 3 goals with Nigeria coming fourth.
Oparanozie has gone on to establish herself as one of the potent and reputable centre forwards in Africa and a permanent face in the senior national team. The Owerri born sharpshooter has no less than 25 goals for the Super Falcons across 35 games in a career spanning 12 years.
Oparanozie has scored some truly significant goals for Nigeria and she remains a fan favourite.
4: Esther Sunday - the 30 year winger is a veteran of Nigerian football having featured in two Under-20 women's world cups and a number of tournaments with the Super Falcons.
She won silver with the Falconets in 2010 before coming fourth with the same outfit in 2012. She would go on to feature in 3 WAfcons with the Super Falcons and 1 world cup in 2015.
Very skillful with pace and dribbling abilities, Sunday is a joy to watch on her day. With 24 caps and 5 goals for the Super Falcons, Esther rarely gets invited for national duties these days.
5: Asisat Oshoala - perhaps the cream of the crop! A crowd pleaser who is also a world class striker, Oshoala was part of Nigeria's squad to the 2012 Under-20 women's world cup in Japan where the team came fourth. She scored no goals as her performance was eclipsed by those of Fransisca Ordega and Desire Oparanozie who stole the show.
The 27 year old came to her own in the 2014 edition where she powered Nigeria all the way to the final only to lose to Germany 1:0 under controversial circumstances. Oshoala was the top scorer with 7 goals and was voted the best player of the tournament.
Oshoala has gone on to have a stellar career in club and senior national team football with 3 WAfcon Gold medals and numerous individual accolades. She continues to be in the Super Falcons starting 11 lists when fit.
The Ikorodu born sniper was voted 32 in the top 100 world female footballers list compiled by the prestigious Guardian Newspaper in 2021.
6: Francisca Ordega - the 28 year old finely built support striker played with much flamboyance in the 2012 under-20 women's world cup for Nigeria. She was expected to be the pin up lady for the Super Falcons in years to come and in truth, she has remained a permanent face in the senior national team.
She scored 4 goals in the under-20 world cup in Japan. She is also a graduate of the under-17 Flamingos where she scored 3 goals at the 2010 world cup at that level.
In a Super Falcons career spanning 12 years, Ordega is an accomplished international with 4 WAfcon Gold medals and 3 world cup appearances.
She is still waxing strong for the Super Falcons.
7: Uchenna Kanu - the 24 year old centre forward featured for Nigeria at the 2014 women's under-20 world cup in Canada where Nigeria came second for the second time. She is also a graduate of the under-17 Flamingos where she scored 3 goals at the Costa Rica world cup.
Kanu is currently having a steady career for herself in the Super Falcons where she has carved out a niche for herself as a dependable centre forward. She debuted for Nigeria in 2019 and has gone on to score a hatful of goals.
She is a key player in Waldrum’s Super Falcons but massive competition for places upfront with a glut of quality strikers might yet limit her appearances.
8: Halimat Ayinde - the 28 year old midfielder was also part of the fabulous Falconets that came runners up at the 2014 women's under-20 world cup. She posted solid performances. She is also a graduate of the Flamingos that she represented between 2010 and 2012 with 4 goals to her name.
Ayinde's 7 years career with the Super Falcons started in 2014. She has gone on to win the WAfcon twice and to participate at the women's world cup.
The Kaduna born midfielder is still very much in the plans of coach Randy Waldrum but it remains to be seen how she battles for a place in the Super Falcons crowded midfield.
9: Rasheedat Ajibade - the 22 year old versatile midfielder is one of the rising stars of the Super Falcons. Ajibade featured in 2 under-20 women's world cup tournaments in 2016 (Papua New Guinea) and 2018 (France).
She also made her mark for the under-17 Flamingos in two world cups at that level where she performed with eloquence and distinction.
Since 2018, Ajibade has been jostling for her place in the Super Falcons, often having to settle for substitute appearances due to high level competition. She remains a huge fan favourite and is expected to be a crucial member of the team for seasons to come.
10: Christy Ucheibe - the 21 year old defensive midfielder has huge potentials and a bright career ahead for herself. The lively player, who is also a graduate of the under-17 Flamingos, attended the 2018 under-20 women's world cup in France where Nigeria crashed out of the quarter finals.
Recently Ucheibe featured for the Super Falcons in the friendlies against Canada where her overall performance was top notch. Much is expected of her and she shows signs of delivering in spades.
11: Chiamaka Nnadozie - during the 2018 FIFA under-20 women's world cup in France, Nnadozie played all 4 matches as Nigeria lost to Spain in the quarter final.
Against Haiti she received the "Dare to Shine" Player of the Match award for her excellent goalkeeping.
She has gone on to establish herself firmly as the Super Falcons number one goalkeeper with deft defying saves in crucial games.
The 21 year old France based net minder is also an alumni of the under-17 Flamingos. She is undoubtedly one of the best goalkeepers in the world with her insane reflexes and Nigeria is expected to break new grounds with her manning the post.
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