Panafrican News Agency

Remembering Falconets fairy-tale feat at Germany 2010 - CAF

Cairo, Egypt (PANA) - Today is exactly a decade when Nigeria nearly made global acclaim at the FIFA Under-20 Women’s World Cup on 1 August 2010, only to lose in the final 2-0 to hosts Germany.

Nicknamed Falconets, the West Africans guided by Ndem Egan, displayed some gritty performances en route to the final after qualifying from a seemingly tough group that included Mexico, Japan and England.

Forward Desire Oparanozie brought the team level in their opening Group C 1-1 draw against England at the Implus Arena in Augsburg on 14 July. She was again on target in the 2-1 win over Japan three days later at the same venue.

Meanwhile, Ebere Orji was the star in the 1-1 draw against Mexico on 21 July as the Falconets finished in second place behind Mexico and progressed to the quarter-finals.

“One of the memories of our performance was that nobody believed in us while going to the FIFA Under-20 Women’s World Cup in Germany in 2010,” Egan (which literally means ‘destiny child’ in the coach’s native Efik language in the South-South Nigeria) told CAFOnline.com.

Indeed destiny played a crucial role as the team was nearly withdrawn following a Government imposed ban from all international competitions after the Super Eagles poor showing at the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. The Eagles crashed out after finishing bottom of their group which included Argentina, South Korea and Greece with just a point.

“However, the ban was lifted in time for us to go to Germany; and that is one thing I can never forget,” recalled Egan.

“We would not have played in Germany if the ban was not lifted by the Nigerian government and that period of uncertainty really affected our preparations for the tournament.”

In the meantime, fortune also favoured the Falconets in their quarter-final duel against USA when Helen Ukaonu lifted her side from the dead with a timely equalizer in the 79th minute after Amber Brooks had given the Americans a ninth-minute lead. The match ended 1-1 after extra time, forcing the game to penalties, where the Nigerians were clinical and triumphed 4-2 to set a date with Colombia at the last four.

Against the tough-playing South Americans in the semis at the Bielefelder Alm in Bielefeld, the Falconets defended in their numbers after Ebere Orji struck a second minute goal that sealed their victory en route to the final match of the tournament against the hosts.

However, the Nigerians succumbed to the hosts in Bielefeld with Alexandra Popp opening the scores after eight minute and an own-goal by defender Osinachi Ohale in the closing seconds, leaving the Germans the happier side in the decisive game.

“I was happy with our performance despite the fact that we lost to Germany in the final,” said Egan, who is currently the technical director of Nigeria Women’s Premier league side, Pelican Stars.

“Coming out second and becoming the first team from Africa to achieve that feat was a personal joy. I’m happier today because some of the girls that I took to that competition later played for the senior national team (the Super Falcons) and some are still very much around,” explained Egan.

-0- PANA VAO 1Aug2020