“We are a giant in Africa and fear no other team. We’ve trained an unbelievable amount and if you look back at qualifying, then we’ve every right to be confident out here whenever we play. We want to show the world that we’re not just big in African terms but that we can beat any other team,” Falconets heroine, Esther Onyenezide, said after her goal sank South Korea on Sunday.
With two games, two goals and two clean sheets, there is no doubt the Falconets are beaming with confidence after booking a place in the quarter-finals of the ongoing 2022 U-20 Women’s World Cup in Costa Rica.
The Nigeria U-20 girls won their first two matches at the tournament, beating France in their opening game on Friday under stormy weather conditions, before earning another 1-0 victory over Korea.
Flourish Sebastine, top scorer for the Falconets in the African qualifying series, was the heroine against the French as her solitary strike in the 85th minute was enough to give Nigeria the maximum three points.
A late strike from midfielder Onyenezide then decided the match in favour of the Africans against their Asian counterparts, as they grabbed their second victory of the tournament to qualify for the knockout phase with a game against Canada still to come in Group C.
Christopher Danjuma’s girls’ had not only just recorded two victories at the World Cup but they had done so by putting up an impressive performance. The team has shown qualities worthy of a champion.
From the back, goalkeeper Omini Oyono has made a string of excellent saves to go two matches without conceding a goal, while the defensive pairing of Oluwatosin Demehin and Omowunmi Oshobukola had formed a formidable backline to withstand pressure from the opposition.
Jumoke Alani and Rofiat Imuran have been excellent in the full-back positions, adding bite to the attack, while also carrying out their defensive duties.
The Falconets midfield is marshaled by the exciting Onyenezide, who claimed the Player of The Match award against Korea, Bashirat Amoo and Chioma Ese, the trio showing great understanding and controlling the rhythm of the game against their foes.
In attack, Joy Jerry and Sebastine have put opposing defences on high alert as their movements on-and-off the ball are a great concern for opponents.
Generally, Christopher Danjuma’s side have shown great technique and precision during their two games at the World Cup, much to the delight of fans.
The impressive display came at a time when the country’s football faithful were losing hope in female football, following the poor performance of the Super Falcons at the 2022 Women’s Africa Cup of Nations in Morocco, where they failed to win a medal, last month.
The Falcons, once perennial champions of the WAFCON, lost three out of six games in Morocco, and returned home empty after a young Zambian side edged the ageing Nigerian players in the third-place game.
However, in San Jose, the Costa Rica capital city and Alajuela, the Falconets have restored belief among the country’s teeming and title-crazy home fans, with many tipping some of the young girls to graduate into the senior team in no time to replace the ageing players in the fumbling Falcons.
Former House of Representatives member, Ayo Omidiran, immediately tweeted after the victory of the Falconets.
She stated, “Nigerian women just giving us reasons to Buga everywhere. God bless all the women of Nigeria.”
Respect Emsty also wrote on Twitter, “I so love these girls, the confidence, the composure, the skills, they don’t bully ball unnecessary like the Falcons, at least 3 of them should be drafted into the Super Falcons. All the departments good, I bet these ladies would have won us Women African Cup of Nations.”
Senator Ojay added, “I’m confident this team can even beat Manchester United.”
“I’m telling you guys, this no. 8 (Onyenezide) suppose enter Man Utd midfield immediately,” Xavier Akinrimisi wrote.
Emmanuel tweeted, “I know Onye had been trying to size up that keeper. Falconets keeper is a phenomenon, and she deserves an accolade. Kudos girls, I am happy and proud of you.”
Obayinde credited coach Danjuma for the Falconets’ display.
“These girls are well coached! They played even better today than against France.”
Truly, the tactics of the highly experienced Danjuma, who also doubles as the head coach of Nasarawa Amazons in the Nigeria Women’s Football League, has come in handy in Costa Rica.
Unlike the Falcons who usually apply the kick-and-follow tactics, despite lacking the fast legs to follow up, there is a coordinated display by the younger Falconets, right from the defence to the attack, thanks to Danjuma’s expertise.
“Football is about building your own tactics as it suits you,” he said after his side’s win over Korea on Sunday.
“Playing against a Korean team, if they find space, they run and there are certain areas of the pitch they use to make incursion into your box, so, all we need to do is get persons to take the responsibility of making sure they don’t come through that area.
“You know it’s easy to say ‘why don’t they go forward?’ Holistically, you might say the whole team can go forward but I spot a weak link and I want to make sure we don’t go forward, lose the ball and it becomes a counter against us, so better we play deep. I mean, it wasn’t a deep thing per se, maybe always see them playing deep, it was to get the ball in those areas, see how the goal comes and attack the Koreans. It’s a trap we’re setting. Get the ball, we come, consider the last one Chiamaka (Okwuchukwu) got a foul, it’s a trap.”
Danjuma previously coached the Falcons after the sack of Edwin Okon in June 2015. He was relieved of his duty after the 2015 African Games, with Florence Omagbemi later occupying the vacant managerial role in February 2016.
In 2019, upon another appointment, he led the Falconets to a gold medal finish at the 12th African Games in Rabat, Morocco.