Falconets hold China, hit quarter final
Pocket $10,000, to meet Spain on Thursday
A stoppage-time goal from captain Rasheedat Ajibade was all Nigeria national U-20 Women’s team, Falconets, needed to advance to the quarterfinal at the on-going FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup holding in France.
The game was heading to an end with China looking sure of picking the group’s second ticket, but Ajibade’s last minute strike turned it around for Nigeria to earn a highly-dramatic 1-1 draw.
With the qualification to the last eight, the Christopher Danjuma-led Falconets yesterday pocked the $10,000 promised by sports minster, Solomon Dalung. The Falconets were finalist at the 2010 and 2014 editions of the championship. The last group match, which took place at the Stade du Clos Gastel in Dinan-Lehon yesterday saw the Chinise looking the more dangerous side in the first half.
Mengyu Shen had the first chance of the match on 25 minutes when she hit the Nigeria crossbar. A few minutes later, captain Linlin Wang headed over the target from close range. China PR’s breakthrough came four minutes before half-time, as the diminutive Linyan Zhang turned her Nigerian marker in the box and stroked the ball past a diving Chiamaka Nnadozie to give the Asians the lead at the break.
The Super Falconets pushed hard to find an equaliser in the second half, but found the China PR backline and goalkeeper Huan Xu in resilient form until the end of the contest. Ajibade became Nigeria’s hero when she turned home Aishat Bello’s cross at the near post. The goal sparked celebrations from the West Africans at the full-time whistle.
The sports minister, Dalung, who is with the team in France had promised the player $10,000 if they win the game against China. Meanwhile, the Falconets will on Thursday take on Spain in the battle for the semifinal ticket. Spain topped Group C with seven points ahead of Japan, who finished second with six points. Two of the powerhouses in women’s football, USA and Brazil, could not make it from the group stage.While Brazil finished last in Group B with just one point, USA was third in Group C with four points.