Fal­conets tackle China for World Cup quar­ter-fi­nals spot

Daily Trust - - SPORT - By Orkula Shaagee

@shagcy A highly-mo­ti­vated Nige­ria U20 girls’ squad is ex­ud­ing con­fi­dence of earn­ing a berth in the 9th FIFA U20 Women’s World Cup quar­ter­fi­nals ahead of a po­ten­tial­ly­ex­plo­sive en­counter with China in Di­nan/Léhon to­day.

Nige­ria will reach the com­pe­ti­tion’s knock­out stages for the sev­enth time in nine edi­tions if they avoid de­feat against the Chi­nese at the Stade de Clos Gas­tel.

A soli­tary strike from the penalty spot, by stand-in skipper Rashee­dat Ajibade, earned the max­i­mum points against Haiti on Thurs­day and took the Fal­conets to se­cond spot in Group D, on goals bal­ance from the Far East Asians, whose 2-1 de­feat of Haiti and 0-2 loss to the Ger­mans meant they have a deficit go­ing into Mon­day’s de­cider in Brit­tany.

“It is go­ing to be a very busy en­counter from the first blast of the whis­tle. We are not ex­pect­ing an easy match. I said from the be­gin­ning that if we must reach the Fi­nal, we have to play and over­come very tough teams.

“We have no il­lu­sions. The Chi­nese squad is a very am­bi­tious one, and we have to be at our best to over­come them. We will go out there and give our very best,” Coach Chris Dan­juma told thenff.com.

Cer­tainly, the big­ger pres­sure is on the Chi­nese, who have to win to se­cure a place in the last eight. A draw would be suf­fi­cient for Nige­ria.

Right-wing op­ti­mists still ex­pect Rashee­dat Ajibade to daz­zle at this championship de­spite a slow start to the cam­paign, but many are those who have be­come im­pa­tient won­der­ing when the FC Robo Queens ace for­ward will de­liver on her awe­some tal­ent and prom­ise at the World Cup fi­nals.

She merely opened a win­dow on her abil­ity at the FIFA U-17 World Cup in Costa Rica in 2014 (where Nige­ria fell at the quar­ter fi­nal hur­dle) and could not make the dif­fer­ence when the Fal­conets were bumped at the group phase dur­ing the last World Cup fi­nals in Pa­pua New Guinea two years ago.

Highly rated at home and a fire­brand fin­isher in African qual­i­fy­ing matches, Ajibade has yet to con­vince at the World Cup. How­ever, Mon­day is an­other day and a spot in the quar­ter fi­nals could just fire her and the likes of Anam Imo, Chid­inma Okeke and Peace Efih to sub­lime per­for­mance in France.

World Cup run­ners-up in 2010 and 2014, semi fi­nal­ists once and quar­ter fi­nal­ists on three oc­ca­sions, only twice be­fore have the Fal­conets failed to ad­vance be­yond the group phase at this championship.

China’s fast-paced game could prove a hand­ful for Nige­ria, and the ef­fi­ciency of long-limbed Chia­maka Nnadozie in goal and the stout de­fend­ing of Sun­day Opeyemi, Mary Olog­bosere, Glory Og­bonna and Oluwakemi Fa­mu­diti would be re­quired to keep the Asians at bay.

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