Nigeria reached the FIFAU17 Women’s World Cup semi-finals for the first time when the Flamingos kept their nerves to defeat the United States of America 4-3 on penalties in a pulsating quarter-final in Navi Mumbai on Friday.
It had been tagged a battle of David against Goliath and the Americans ratcheted up the pressure to get an early goal after the game eventually started following a long delay due to adverse weather conditions. But Africa’s best team defended stoutly and showed no signs they could easily be brow-beaten.
The game flowed back and forth and Nigeria would go into the lead in the 27th minute when the Video Assistant Referee adjudged that Aminat Omowunmi Bello had been unfairly hacked in the box as Nigeria launched an onslaught. Right-back Omamuzo Edafe scored from the spot.
The Americans, seeking a place in the last four for the first time in 14 years, were back on level terms 13 minutes later, after an unlucky Comfort Folorunsho diverted a fierce shot at the edge of the area past goalkeeper Faith Omilana.
Both teams fought gamely in a battling second half, and the Americans were denied by Nigeria’s stout defending once more when Miracle Usani heaved the ball away after Omilana had been teased out by Gamero Onyeka with six minutes left.
It went straight into penalties after 90 minutes and Edidiong Etim, Immaculata Offiong, Miracle Usani and Omamuzo Edafe scored for Nigeria while defender Comfort Folorunsho missed. Her miss did not matter as Emri blew her kick wide and substitute goalkeeper Linda Jiwuaku saved from Bhuta to give Nigeria the day.
Victory somewhat recreated the events of 25th July 2010 in Augsburg, Germany when the Nigeria U20 girls defeated their USA counterparts 4-2 on a penalty shootout after a 1-1 draw in a FIFA U20 Women’s World Cup quarter-final match.