Thursday, July 29, 2010

Africa: U-20 Women World Cup - Nigeria into Semis

The Falconets beat the defending champions, USA 4-2 on penalties after both sides were tied on one goal either way at the end of 120 minutes of play.
Nigeria are into the semi-finals of the Under-20 Women's World Cup in Germany after beating defending champions the United States 4-2 on penalties. The United States dominated a first half and took the lead just nine minutes into the game through Amber Brooks. The goal came as the U.S. caught Nigeria napping on a corner kick from the left side. Zakiya Bywaters took it short to Mewis, and with the Nigeria defenders standing in the penalty area, she dribbled toward the edge of the six metre box and played a short square pass to the on rushing Brooks, who re-directed the ball into the net.

The USA fired 16 shots at Nigeria's goal as against four for the Falconets but despite the numerous chances they could not find another goal to put the match away. Nigeria did have some nice midfield possession in the first half, but its attack consisted mostly of long balls over the top of the U.S defence that were well-won by centre backs Crystal Dunn and Toni Pressley, who both played excellent matches over the 120 minutes.

The second half was entirely different as the Nigerians turned up the energy and after hitting just four shots before the break, fired almost 20 in the second 45 minutes. It took 51 minutes for Nigeria to create a good chance on goal, but from then on to the end of regulation, the Falconets looked more dangerous.
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Helen Ukaonu scored the equaliser for the Falconets in the 79th minute. Nigeria got a free kick just over 30 metres from the U.S. goal and shaded a bit to the left. A Nigerian player gave a short pass for Ukaonu to blast a world class strike that gave the US goalkeeper, Henninger no chance. Both sides were tied at one goal each way after a 30-minute prolongation and had to be separated by penalty shoot-outs. Nigeria carried the day, beating the US 4-2.Alaba Jonathan was the heroine for Nigeria as she saved Christine Nairn's penalty before Sydney Leroux missed her spot kick for the US. Joy Jegede, Ukaonu, Esther Sunday and Desire Oparanozie all converted their penalties for the Falconets to send them into the last four. Nigeria will play Colombia, who beat Sweden 2-0 in their quarter-final, on Thursday for a place in the final.

The other semi final match will pit Germany against Korea who beat Mexico 3-1 in the other quarter final match. The performance of the Falconets is a great consolation for Nigeria after their male counterparts were butted out at the group stage at the just ended world cup in South Africa. It also augers well for Nigeria, who will be taking part in the upcoming women African Cup of Nations in South Africa in September 2010. Nigeria will be seeking to regain her throne lost to Equatorial Guinea during the last edition of the tournament.

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