By Akinwale Kasali
The Falconets of Nigeria will today file out against Germany Under-20 National team in the FIFA Uder-20 Wold Cup in France.
Since the inception of the female age grade competition, Nigeria has never missed out, coming close to winning the coveted trophy, but were denied by the German ladies four years ago. This is however a revenge mission.
Coach Christopher Danjuma masterminded the team to five wins in the CAF qualifiers to seal a place at the World Cup, before naming his final 21-man squad for the mundial.
Chiamaka Nnadozie (Rivers Angels)
Nnadozie is the favourite to be the number one goalkeeper. She has impressed many with her shot-stopping ability and distribution.
During the qualifiers, she conceded just two goals and kept four clean sheets in six appearances.
Okeke Onyinyenchukwu (Edo Queens)
Despite being Edo Queens’ number one for a number of years, Okeke has only earned two international caps for the Falconets.
A goalkeeper with great reflexes, she has pulled off a number of world-class saves in her career.
Rita Akarekor (Sunshine Queens)
The Sunshine Queens stopper has a solid all-round game. She has the best reflex among the three goalkeepers. She has a commanding presence behind the sticks.
Her distribution and concentration make her stand out.
Mary Ologbosere (Rivers Angels)
Ologbosere is key to the coach’s formation. She is dominant on the right and is a good crosser of the ball. She should be one of Nigeria’s key players at the tournament.
Sunday Opeyemi (Sunshine Queens)
Opeyemi comes up against some of the best attackers in the Nigeria Women Premier League every week and does her job solidly. She is a left-sided defender with immense energy.
Famuditi Oluwakemi (Confluence Queens)
Named Confluence Queens’ footballer of the year in 2017, the Falconets skipper will go to the World Cup brimming with confidence.
She can play as a right or left back, but the coach prefers to use her as a central defender, a position she will most likely be deployed to at the World Cup.
Ezekiel Blessing (Rivers Angels)
Ezekiel can play as a defender and also take up the defensive midfielder role. Her strength on the ball makes it difficult for opponents to dispossess her.
The budding starlet is one of the brightest young talents in Nigeria, and the World Cup will be a great experience for her.
Glory Ogbonna (Ibom Angels)
Ogbonna is capable of playing at left back, but it’s in the centre of defence that the Ibom Angels star features for the Falconets.
Big, strong, and fearless, Ogbonna is an excellent reader of the game and has hardly put a foot wrong in her 15 caps for the Falconets.
Duru Joy (Nasarawa Amazons)
In matches played for the youth sides, Duru has impressed — not only with her tackling but also her aerial prowess in the box.
She is agile, fast and loves to roam forward to support the attackers.
Amoo Bashirat (Confluence Queens)
Amoo will play as a roaming number 10, just behind Ajibade and Imo.
The recent friendlies showed that the trio can make an impact going forward and they will be key if Nigeria are to make it out of the group stage. On her day, Amoo is a great passer of the ball.
Christy Ucheibe (Nasarawa Amazons)
Christy played an important role during the qualifiers, as her guarding of the back four allowed Amoo to work her magic going forward.
It will be the same story in France as she will be tasked with winning back the ball in the middle of the park.
Her presence will be crucial in the opening game against Germany.
Taibat Odueke (Edo Queens)
Odueke is one of Nigeria’s brightest young talents but she may play a bit-part role in France.
She has a ferocious desire to win the ball, while she can also dictate the play with her excellent passing ability.
Mary Saiki (Rivers Angels)
A lot was expected from the Edo-born enforcer when she made the move to Rivers Angels and she has lived up to her potential.
A box to box midfielder, Saiki will be important for the Falconets in France.
Adebisi Saheed (Bayelsa Queens)
Adebisi is a decent passer of the ball, brilliant set-piece taker and will be a useful link between defence and attack.
Her great dribbling skills, lethal finishing in the box have made her one of the best midfielders in the Nigerian league.
Adebisi wasn’t impressive in the 2016 U20 Women’s World Cup, hence, she will be out to make amends in France.
Peace Efih (Edo Queens)
The Edo Queens midfielder has the necessary qualities you need in a central midfielder. She is very disciplined on and off the ball.
Rasheedat Ajibade (FC Robo Queens)
Rasheedat Ajibade heads to the World Cup in good form, having netted 10 goals in the qualifying series.
She is one of the most lethal strikers in the competition, and if Nigeria are to progress through the group stages, the forward needs to be on form.
Monday Gift (FC Robo Queens)
Gift was one of the key players during qualifying series for the World Cup, proving to be useful with her pace down the left.
Anam Imo (Nasarawa Amazons)
Imo is the most on form forward in the Nigeria Women Premier League, scoring breathtaking goals for Nasarawa Amazons.
In France, she will play up front with Ajibade. Her strength and pace can cut through any defence.
Aishat Bello (Nasarawa Amazons)
The wildcard in the Falconets squad, Bello has emerged, this season, as one of the biggest talents in the country and could go on to be one of the stars in France.
She is a strong and direct winger as well as a great dribbler with good technique.
Chidinma Okeke (FC Robo Queens)
It’s often debated whether Chidinma Okeke is a better option for the Falconets up front rather than Imo, and many believe Okeke has not had a chance to prove herself.
She is a deadly finisher in the box.
Grace Igboamalu (Nasarawa Amazons)
Igboamalu is a hardworking player who can play through the middle or on the right wing. She is a strong battler who gives 100 percent in every game.
The tournament began on Sunday with France humiliating Ghana 4-1. Mexico beat Brazil 3-2 while New Zealand lost 2-1 to Holland. England defeated South Korea DPR 3-1.
Germany defeated Nigeria 2-0 in the final of the 2010 edition on home soil and progressed to win the championship 1-0 at the expense of the Falconets four years later in Canada.
The Falconets coach Musa Danjuma says his team are ready for Die Nationalelf (The National Eleven).
“It is a good thing we are meeting Germany in our first match. If you want to be a champion, you have to overcome strong forces on the way. We are starting the tournament knowing that there is no easy route to the top, and that we have to give our best in every minute of the competition,” Danjuma told thenff.com.
He will rely on Gift Monday, Oluwakemi Famuditi, Glory Ogbonna, Christy Ucheibe, Peace Efih, Rasheedat Ajibade and Anam Imo for victory.
Nigeria take on Haiti at the same venue on Thursday.
The tournament has helped Nigeria discovered talents for their senior team the Super Falcons since it began as an U19 tournament in Canada in 2002.
The likes of Cynthia Uwak, Rita Chikwelu, Ogonna Chukwudi, Sarah Michael, Desire Oparanozie, Francisca Ordega and Asisat Oshoala became stars after playing in the tournament.