Nigeria’s U20 women’s national side, the Falconets, on Thursday was eliminated from the tournament by Spain in the first quarterfinals match in Corncaneau, France.
Newslegend.com.ng’s editor IZUCHUKWU OKOSI picks out five takeaways from the team’s outing.
1. Unsung Heroine – Christy Ucheibe
Undoubtedly Nigeria’s best player at the World Cup was goalkeeper Chiamaka Nnadozie but what a revelation defensive midfielder Christy Ucheibe was.
The former U-17 player broke up plays at will to win possession back and pass the ball to her more attacking minded teammates.
Ucheibe is a gem that has been discovered and hopefully could be an asset for Nigeria at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo should the team qualify for the Games – and the senior team, Super Falcons.
2. Nnadozie For Super Falcons
This World Cup was not all gloom for Nigeria despite not reaching the semifinals stage.
Nnadozie’s heroics in France is no more news but based on her performances in Nigeria’s four matches at the tournament, it will not be too soon to have her move up to the next level and be part of the Nigerian senior national side in the near future.
Nnadozie’s agility, composure, sound judgement and organization of her defense were instrumental in the team getting to the quarterfinals.
Surely had the Falconets reached ‘the last four’ of the U-20 Women’s World Cup, Nnadozie will be a contender for the ‘Goalkeeper of the Tournament’ award.
3. Danjuma’s Touchline Antics
Head coach of the Falconets Christopher Danjuma was often animated in his technical area in France.
Some Nigerian football fans found it amusing, and perhaps, slightly annoying for others, but the truth be told, Danjuma clearly demonstrated that male coaches can work with the female players.
That ubiquitous style somewhat worked as it put the girls under ‘pressure’ to deliver throughout their matches and that was the case as they got back from a losing position to snatch a last gasp draw against China.
Some other teams have male coaches so the argument that only female coaches understand the issues facing the female players is not entirely correct.
The players and coaches are professional. The chief coach also have female assistants so it does not really mean that all the female coaches will win tournaments and get the best out of the girls.
4. Peace Efih and Aishat Bello Too For The Falcons; Ajibade To Continue
Continuing with the theme of which of the Falconets deserve to be ‘promoted’ to the Super Falcons, the duo of Peace Efih and Aishat Bello proved their worth.
Efih is a technical player who relies on her dribbling skills, pace and shooting ability while Bello in addition to her searing pace is a fantastic crosser of the ball.
They will definitely upstage the likes of Asisat Oshoala, Desire Oparanozie or Francisca Ordega just yet, but they can be gradually integrated into the fold.
These two are special talents. Rasheedat Ajibade has already played for the Falcons before so is surely expected to continue on that front because she is Nigeria’s star (outfield) player heading into the U20 World Cup in France.
5. Nigeria’s Women’s League Need Help
It is apparent that there are talents aplenty in the women’s rank but the standard of the domestic league has to be improved.
Sponsors are needed and fair treatment of all national teams are vital irrespective of the gender in terms of development, financial compensation and preparations ahead of tournaments.
Regular friendlies akin to the NPFL All Star team versus La Liga sides in the men’s game should be part of the activities and programmes of the women’s department of the NPFL.
That is one sure way to improving the qualities of the players.