Nigeria’s Falconets fell short in their quest for glory as they emerged runners-up in the inaugural edition of the highly anticipated WAFU B U20 Girls Cup of Nations.
The thrilling final against arch-rivals Ghana ended with a 1-1 draw at full time, but it was the Black Princesses who ultimately prevailed in a nerve-wracking penalty shootout, claiming a 3-1 victory.
Despite Ghana hosting the event, Nigeria entered the match as the firm favourites to triumph over their eternal adversaries.
The Falconets dominated the opening stages, crafting a handful of promising opportunities under the guidance of their astute coach, Chris Musa Danjuma.
However, Ghana struck first, capitalizing on a penalty conceded by Nigeria to net their captain, Stella Nyamekye, from the spot. This marked the first goal the Falconets had conceded throughout the entire competition.
As the first half ended, Nigeria desperately sought to restore parity but fell short of finding the elusive equalizer.
The second half saw the Falconets launch a relentless assault on the Ghanaian defence, relentlessly pressuring their opponents and carving out numerous chances.
Alas, luck seemed to elude them as they struggled to find the perfect final pass or the fortuitous bounce needed to breach the goal line.
In a remarkable turn of events, Flourish Sabastine finally broke through Ghana’s resistance in the 84th minute.
Seizing an opportunity presented by the opposing goalkeeper’s misjudgment of a routine cross, Sabastine calmly tapped the ball into an unguarded net.
The relief and joy that accompanied her goal were palpable, particularly since she had been responsible for the penalty that allowed Ghana to score their solitary goal. This crucial strike marked Sabastine’s fourth goal of the tournament.
With only a minute of regular time remaining, the Falconets momentarily switched off, nearly allowing Ghana to snatch a dramatic stoppage-time winner.
However, fate intervened in Nigeria’s favour as the ball ricocheted off the crossbar, saving them from heartbreak.
With the score deadlocked at 1-1 after the full 90 minutes, the match progressed directly to a penalty shootout to determine the champions.
The Black Princesses displayed nerves of steel, coolly converting three of their spot-kicks, while Nigeria managed to find the back of the net only once. As a result, Ghana’s players etched their names in history as the first-ever winners of the WAFU B U20 Cup.