The Flamingoes of Nigeria will begin their quest at the FIFA U-17 Womenâ€™s World Cup in TrinidadÂ and Tobago against holders Korea DPR on Sunday.Â The Nigerians would seek to replicate theÂ achievement of their senior counterparts, the Falconets, who won silver at the recentlyÂ concluded FIFA U-20 Womenâ€™s World Cup in Germany.
As the pre-eminent force in African womenâ€™s football, Nigeria, will be hoping to make more ofÂ an impact on the FIFA U-17 Womenâ€™s World Cup 2010 in Trinidad and Tobago than they did twoÂ years ago in the inaugural tournament.
A straightforward campaign to reach New Zealand saw them qualify with a match to spare, andÂ they were tipped to go through from what turned out to be a topsy-turvy group. The FlamingoesÂ beat eventual group winners Korea Republic 2-1 before falling to England 1-0 in a match theyÂ mostly dominated. Knowing that either of them could go through with a win, Nigeria and BrazilÂ then slugged it out to a 2-2 draw that saw neither progress to the knockout rounds.
Like two years ago, the Flamingoes were the first African team to qualify for the FIFA U-17Â Womenâ€™s World Cup. In this case, their passage was booked following a 2-1 victory over SouthÂ Africa at the beginning of May. But the hard work of the two-legged tie against Bantwana wasÂ done in the first match when the west Africans ran out to an impressive 5-0 win in Abeokuta twoÂ weeks before.
Ugochi Oparanozie was the spark in that one-sided contest, scoring four times, including aÂ first within a minute of the start of the match. Ngozi Okobi claimed the fifth in the firstÂ leg, while Charity Adule and Oparanozie again bagged the two in the away leg.
Drawn into a manageable Group A in Trinidad and Tobago, Nigeria coach Peter Dedevbo will beÂ looking for a fast start in their opener against holders Korea DPR. But if not, there should beÂ time to recover against tournament debutantes: the hosts and Chile, who finished second inÂ South America to Brazil.
The Flamingoes will no doubt be buoyed by the success of the Falconets, who battled their wayÂ to the Final of the U-20 Womenâ€™s World Cup in Germany. Though the Falconets lost to the hostsÂ in the ultimate match, there is definitely a feeling that the ceiling has been broken forÂ Nigeria womenâ€™s football.
â€œThe success of (the Falconets) presents us with a big challenge,â€ Dedevbo, who was anÂ assistant for the full Nigerian womenâ€™s team, said recently. â€œThis is not the time to lower ourÂ guard now that Nigerians are turning to womenâ€™s football. We need to stay focused, and we canÂ make the country proud.â€