Despite suffering a defeat to The Netherlands in the quarter-finals of the ongoing U-20 Women’s World Cup in Costa Rica, the Falconets dazzled brought some ray of hope to the country’s football faithful.
The Falconets, coached by ex-Falcons gaffer Christopher Danjuma, lost 2-0 to the Netherlands in their first knockout stage game, after winning all of their three group stage matches, including an opening day 1-0 upset against France, under stormy weather conditions.
With several ageing legs begging to be replaced in deposed African champions Super Falcons, PUNCH Sports Extra takes a look at five of the Falconets who put up some eye-catching performances in Costa Rica and could come into the fray at senior level sooner than later…
Omini Oyono (Goalkeeper)
Between the sticks, Oyono was solid for most part of the competition the Falconets played. On paper, the three goals she conceded in four games would seem unimpressive, but the 19-year-old went the first two games without conceding any and the first three conceding just once.
Her displays ensured the Falconets got all three points in their opening games as they managed a goal against France and Korea respectively.
Oyono’s command of the area was evident in all the four games, even in the ones she conceded, especially in the 3-1 win over Canada, where she prevented the Canadians from getting back into the game and making up for her slow start after conceding within two minutes.
There was little Oyono could do to prevent the two goals The Netherlands put past her on Monday morning as the first was a perfect dipping shot that found the back of the net, despite her fast reaction while the second came off a defensive error from Oluwatosin Demehin.
Falcons first choice keeper Chiamake Nnadozie is one of Europe’s best goalies and doesn’t look like dropping that tag yet but the young Oyono could understudy her, as age catches up on the other senior keepers Tochukwu Oluehi (35) and Yewande Balogun (32).
Oluwatosin Demehin (Defender)
Take away Demehin’s error that led to The Netherlands second goal and you would have a perfect defender.
The 20-year-old’s leadership qualities is top-notch as she marshalled the defence ensuring they were one of the meanest in the group stage of the tournament, conceding just a goal in three games.
Already an integral part of NWFL side Sunshine Queens’ defence, much was expected from Demehin and for a large part, she duly delivered, showing glimpses of the talent she displays back in Nigeria on the foreign soil.
She’s also versatile, showing high work rate at both right-back and central defence.
Omowunmi Oshobukola (Defender)
Hardworking Oshobukola turned up in all areas for her team, chasing down through balls and displaying technical ability, which gave room for no mistakes.
The other half of one of the meanest defences in the group stage of the tournament, the 19-year-old was unfazed by the pressure many buckled under while playing on the global stage.
Her contributions did not end at the back, however; she was spectacular when it came to supplying long balls, boasting a great passing range and only on rare occasions failing to hit her mark when supplying those back-breaking passes.
Esther Onyenezide (Midfielder)
Calm under pressure, Onyenezide had ice in her veins when she was called up to take consecutive penalties against Canada, but she converted both expertly, sending the keeper the wrong way on each occasion, in the 3-1 win.
The Robo Queens midfielder had earlier scored an amazing winner against Korea in the second group game.
With comparisons to Chelsea’s N’Golo Kante, Onyenezide ran tirelessly, starting all games for the Falconets and never failing to quickly recover against swift attacks.
A true box-to-box midfielder, she claimed Player of The Match awards against both Korea and Canada, ensuring the Nigerians went into the knockout stages full of confidence. She finished as the Falconets’ highest goal scorer with three goals.
Onyenezide looks a sure bet for a senior role in the coming months, following her heroics in Costa Rica.
Flourish Sabastine (Forward)
Match winner in the first game of the tournament against France and constant thorn in the opposition’s side, Sabastine is fast, good on the ball and links up with her teammates very well.
Her movements on-and-off the ball were sources of concern to the backline of the Falconets opponents in Costa Rica.
The youngest of all players on this list, the 17-year-old’s talents are undeniable. She tested The Netherlands keeper with the Falconets’ best chance in the 15th minute of the game.
With a forward line often looking bereft of ideas, Sabastine might just bring the needed spark into the Falcons strike force.