The young Nigerian girls have been superb in Costa Rica, beating every opponent placed in front of them to secure a quarterfinal duel with the Netherlands
The Falconets have been one of the best teams at the 2022 FIFA under-20 World Cup hosted by Costa Rica.
The Nigeria U20 national team defeated Canada on matchday three to finish their group stage challenge with the maximum nine points.
Below are the major talking points from the Falconets’ flawless group stage adventure.
Perfect three in three
The Nigeria U20 women have featured at every edition of the FIFA U20 World Cup, making ten appearances since the tournament began in 2002.
The Falconets have only failed to make it out of the group stage on just two occasions (2002 and 2016) to underline their success at the championship.
Costa Rica 2022 is, however, the first World Cup that the Falconets will win all of their three group matches.
Nigeria defeated France, South Korea, and Canada to sit at the summit of Group C, qualifying for the quarterfinals.
Only on two previous editions have the Falconets finished top of their group at the World Cup.
Nigeria won Group B at Japan 2012 and Group C at Canada 2014 with seven points from two wins and one draw in each case.
The Falconets made it to the semifinals of both editions. The team finished as runners-up to Germany in 2014 and in fourth place at Japan 2012.
The current set of Falconets has kept on with the dominance of the lots before them in clashes against certain opponents.
The Nigeria U20 girls have never lost against the Korea Republic, and the coach Chris Danjuma-led side made it three straight wins for Nigeria over the Asians with their matchday two triumph in Costa Rica.
The Falconets also made it three consecutive victories over Canada at the tournament. Only a solitary defeat to the Reds in 2002, on their home soil, exists on Nigeria’s CV.
Nigeria’s face-off with France on matchday one was the first-ever clash between the two nations at this level. Nigeria won 1-0 courtesy of a late Flourish Sabastine strike.
Coach Danjuma’s magic wand
The Falconets’ excellent outing in Costa Rica has been a sweet surprise for many, and some of the credit should go to coach Christophe Danjuma.
The team’s preparation for the World Cup was far from ideal; they did not even play any friendly match before their opening game versus France.
But Coach Danjuma somehow wriggled through these challenges to put together a team that looked better coached than the Super Falcons.
The Falconets exhibit composure in defense and look to exert control in midfield while creating loads of chances in attack. The team is not only a fun side to watch but also one that Nigerians have become proud of.
The future stars are shining bright
Osinachi Ohale, Desire Oparanozie, Ngozi Okobe, and Asisat Oshoala are household names in the senior national team and world football.
But a few years ago, they introduced themselves to the football world at the FIFA U20 Women’s World Cup.
The next generation of Super Falcons stars is being birthed in Costa Rica.
And it is only a matter of time before Esther Onyenezide, Flourish Sabastine, Oluwatosin Demeyin, and Mercy Idoko, among others, become familiar names in the Super Falcons.
Onyenezide on the cusp of history
One of those youngsters, Esther Onyenezide, is already one of the most prolific Nigerian goalscorers in a single U20 Women’s World Cup tournament.
The 19-year-old midfielder has three goals from three games played so far.
Onyenezide netted Nigeria’s winner against South Korea and followed it up with a brace of penalties in the 3-1 win over Canada.
Only Asisat Oshoala (7 goals at Canada 2014), Cynthia Uwak (4 goals at Russia 2006), and Francisca Ordega (4 goals at Japan 2012) have scored more than Onyenezide at any edition of the World Cup.
Meanwhile, Onyenezide remains in the running for the top goalscorer award at Costa Rica 2022.
Only Spain’s Inma Gabarro (4 goals) has outscored Onyenezide.
Should the former Edo Queens star overtake Gabarro and stay clear of others, she would become only the second Nigeria, after Asisat Oshoala, to win the Golden Boot award.