By Joseph Aigbonosumua
Nigeria’s Falconets will today continue their quest for glory at the ongoing 2018 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup holding in France when they face China in a make or mar encounter later today with both teams standing a chance of making it to the quarterfinals stage.
You will recall that the Falconet went down in their Group D opener against the 3 -time world champions,Germany but returned to winning ways in their second game against Haiti courtesy of Rasheedat Ajibade’s lone goal from the spot kick.
China on the other hand, started their campaign on a winning with a 2-1 victory against Haitian ladies which followed a shocking defect in the hands of Germany in their second game last Thursday. The Germans are the group leader with six points while Falconet are placed second ahead of China with three points apiece but on goal difference as Haiti rocks the bottom with no point.
The Christopher Danjuma-led Nigerian side only need a draw to secure their qualification to the knockout stage while the Chinese girls will be in search for an outright victory against the 2010 and 2014 silver medallists and an improved Falconets.
Again, Coach Christopher Danjuma will rely on the performance of both Rasheedat Ajibade and Anam Imo, who are poised to cause damage against the Chinese team to see Nigeria through to the knockout stage. Nigeria will reach the competition’s knockout stages for the seventh time in nine editions if they avoid defeat against the Chinese team at the Stade de Clos Gastel. “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. Meanwhile, Sports minister, Barrister Solomon Dalung says he’s optimistic that the Nigerian girls will clinch a quarter final ticket.
He had promised the team $10,000 if they beat China. “I believe that the Falconets have been well motivated for Monday’s game against China and I’ve been assured by the players that, they will play out their hearts to get the ticket. “The U-20 Women’s team has been in the final in 2010 and 2014 and I know that you all will work hard to repeat that success in 2018. Like I earlier promised, all your entitlements will be offset soon but you will get a personal token of $10,000 from me if you beat China on Monday. “As a country we have identified our areas of strength and comparative advantage of which women’s football is one of them and we will need to invest more in it. On behalf of the His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari and the good people of Nigeria, I wish you a successful outing against China on Monday,” Dalung said. World Cup runners –up in 2010 and 2014, semifinalists once and quarter finalists on three occasions, only twice before have the Falconets failed to advance beyond the group phase at this championship. That was at the first edition in Canada in 2002, when a hurriedly assembled squad struggled and two years ago, when the Nigerian girls were on the plane back home before the quarter finals despite winning two of three matches and finishing with six points.