By Joseph Aigbonosumua
Nigeria U-20 female football team Falconets on Monday played 1-1 with China in their final group match to reach the quarterfinals of the 2018 U-20 FIFA World Cup in France.
Nigeria qualified on superior goals aggregate having rounded up their group matches on four points with China.
The Falconets had lost 0-1 to Germany and bounced back with a 1-0 victory over Haiti before playing 1-1 draw with China who desperately needed a victory.
China beat Haiti 2-1 in their first game but went down 0-2 to Germany before crashing to Nigeria in their final group match.
Falconets’ equalizing goal and victory came through the team captain Ajibade in the final minutes of the match.
China had led through Zhang in the 41 minute when she dribbled her way though Falconets defence and were looking comfortable to progress into the quarterfinals.
Several attempts by the Falconets team made the game looked like an impossible mission as the Chinese stood their ground against everything thrown at them.
Falconets stepped up the pressure in the second half of the match but fell short of ideas when they reached China’s goal areas to deliver the much needed goal.
Nigeria’s defensive play led by number 15 Jersey Sunday Opeyemi was awe inspiring as she stood against China getting their important winner.
She had a goal line clearance in the 93rd minute which propelled a counter attack by the Falconets team where Anam Imo squared a pass for an Ajibade’s equalizer.
Nigeria has advanced into the quarterfinals to play England on Aug. 17 for a place in the semi-finals.
Nigeria’s best performance so far was in 2010 and 2014 editions when they won the silver medals after placing second.