Nigeria’s youth female national team, Falconets’ goalkeeper, Chiamaka Nnadozie could be in for her stiffest challenge so far at the ongoing FIFA U20 Women’s World Cup in France, as she prepares to line out against China.
Monday’s game is the last group fixture, with Nigeria needing only a draw to move ahead into the knockout stage of this year’s contest, but that means Nnadozie will have to be at her best to stop the rampaging Chinese lasses from doing damage.
Nnadozie has been a huge revelation so far for the Falconets, with tremendous saves in their opening 1-0 loss to Germany and victory over Haiti by the same margin in their second group game, such that expectations are on her to again stand tall against China from 3;30pm (Nigeria time).
Nnadozie was rewarded with the award of ‘Dare To Dream’ Player of the Match for her sterling form against Haiti and is expected to do even more against The Orientals from Shanghai.
Amazingly, this was a goalkeeper that was down the pecking order for the Falconets in their flight through the African qualifying series, as Onyinyechukwu Okeke held sway as first choice in goal.
To qualify for the finals, the Nigerian girls pumped nine goals past their Tanzanian counterparts without conceding any, and then secured a 6-2 aggregate win over Morocco.
In the final qualifying fixture, they blew South Africa apart 8-0 on aggregate, making for a total of 23 goals for and only two against.
All that is now in the distant past, as Nnadozie and her colleagues face a daunting task of going further at France 2018, and need to fire better shots in Monday’s decisive game.
Nonetheless, feelers from the team’s camp in France indicate that the Falcoents are all exuding confidence of earning a berth in the quarter finals after their encounter with the Chinese in Dinan/Léhon.
Only twice before have the Falconets failed to advance beyond the group stage in the history of this championship, as they were runners-up in 2010 and 2014, semi-finalists once and quarter finalists on three occasions.
Their first group ouster was at the first edition in Canada in 2002, when a hurriedly built up squad struggled, and two years ago, when the Nigerian girls went home early despite winning two first phase matches and finished with six points.
Heading into Monday’s decider, Nnadozie urged her teammates to go all out and take all three points from China.
Nnadozie stressed: “It’s the final match in the group stage, so we have to try our best and give everything we have.
“This is the final fight. We have the same amount of points as China, so it’s going to be a tough match.
“(Against Haiti) we played according to our coaches’ instructions and we did all we could. We fought until the end, were able to withstand the pressure and at the end of the match we won. I’m so happy.
“After the match everybody came to me and they were very, very happy. It was so great. They came to me, hugged me and told me how well I did. They encouraged me.”