Thursday, 30 August 2012

Falconets qualify, edge into semis past brave Mexico

Nigeria have won their
into their second
successive FIFA U-20
Women’s World Cup
semi-final with a hard-
fought 1-0 extra-time
victory over a resilient
Mexico in Tokyo.
Nigeria, beaten finalists
in Germany two years
ago, were dominant
throughout the first
hour, but were unable
to make the
breakthrough on the
scoreboard until Desire
Oparanozie’s decisive
goal on 109 minutes.
The Africans made
much of the early
running and appeared
to have a crucial early
goal as Francisca
Ordega’s shot deflected
past goalkeeper Cecilia
Santiago on the
quarter-hour, only for
the offside flag to be
raised for an earlier
infringement.
Almost immediately
Oparanozie forced
Santiago into a
sprawling save as
Nigeria looked to turn
the screws in the late
afternoon heat.
With far more
possession in midfield
Nigeria were inching
their way closer to
breaking the deadlock
and Oparanozie rattled
the crossbar with her
shot eight minutes
before the interval.
The always dangerous
Sofia Huerta, scorer of
three goals in the
tournament, made a
rare incursion into the
Africans’ penalty area
just before the break,
to provide some
impetus for the
Mexicans.
However, the one-way
traffic continued
immediately upon the
resumption, much to
the delight of a large
and buoyant group of
Nigeria supporters,
whose tunes and
singing resonated
around the National
Stadium throughout
the match.
Approaching the hour
mark Santiago again
thwarted the Africans
with an important
block from Gloria
Ofoegbu’s effort, and
then again a few
minutes later from
Oparanozie.
Mexico slowly started
to make an impression
and enjoyed a rare
sight of goal midway
through the second
half, only for
inspirational skipper
Nayeli Rangel to push
her back-post header
narrowly over.
Nigeria’s midfield play
became less cohesive
and Mexico could have
won it in injury time as
a corner looped onto
the crossbar.
A fairly disjointed
period of extra time
was enlivened only on
a few occasions,
notably by Mexico’s
Yamile Franco hitting
the bar with an angled
free-kick.
With the match
starting to swing back
Mexico’s way, it was
Nigeria who conjured a
winner, with
Oparanozie looping a
perfectly executed
header from Ugo
Njoku’s cross over a
stranded Santiago.

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