Nigeria squandered a 3-0 lead, but still managed to beat European champions, Germany, through a penalty shoot-out to win the bronze medal of the India 2022 FIFA U-17 Women World Cup, which ended yesterday. The girls won the shoot by three goals to two in Mumbai.
But it would have been so different if the Nigerian girls had been more composed and better led towards the end of the regular 90 minutes, while they were 3-0 up.
Both teams started the competition playing against each other, with the Germans coming back from a goal down to win 2-1 at the Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Goa.
The Europeans, who lost by a 90th minute goal to cup holders, Spain, in Wednesday’s second semifinal, started the brighter side and had the ball in the net through Marie Steiner in the fifth minute off a cross from Laura Gloning. But the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) ruled it offside.
Nigeria took the lead in the 21st minute through power forward, Opeyemi Ajakaye, after she got the better of Eve Boettcher from a flowing move.
Goalkeeper Faith Omilana saved from Gloning five minutes later, but Nigeria should have been 2-0 up in time-added-on in the first half only for Chidera Okenwa to miss a one-on-one with Boettcher.
The Flamingos continued the second half from where they left off in the first and were more fortunate this time, as Aminat Omowunmi Bello headed powerfully into the net from defender Miracle Usani’s corner kick in the 48th minute.
It was soon 3-0, as Edidiong Etim, only four minutes on the pitch in place of Okenwa, converted to put daylight between both teams.
Or so it seemed. Germany, staring at annihilation, fought back gamely and reduced the score line in the 73rd minute when Veit Jella pulled one back. Five minutes later, Ajakaye had an opportunity to make it 4-1 but faltered.
Paulina Platiner made it 3-2 with five minutes to go and on the dot of 90 minutes, Loreen Bender tied the score line to compel a third penalty shootout for the Flamingos in the knockout phase of the tournament.
It was the dice of their triumph against U.S. in the quarterfinals that Nigeria picked, rejecting the losing dice against Colombia in the semifinal. Substitutes Blessing Sunday and Edidiong Etim, and Player-of-the-Match, Ajakaye, scored from the spot for Nigeria. Defender Tumininu Adeshina missed, but it did not matter as Pauliner Bartz missed a crucial kick for Germany.
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