By Victor Kanayo
Nigeria on Saturday evening booked its place at the 2024 FIFA U20 Women’s World Cup finals at the MKO Abiola National Stadium, Abuja.
This is after the Nigerian women defeated their Burundi counterpart 2-0 on aggregate.
The two goals were scored at both first and second leg matches.
The Nigerian side, known as Falconets, had won the first leg 1-0 in Dar es Salaam six days ago, before youngster Opeyemi Ajakaye scored a solitary goal to confirm her country’s place in Columbia after the final round of the qualifying race in Africa.
How Falconets Did The Job
As was the case in the first leg in Dar es Salaam, the Nigerian girls created opportunity after opportunity, but failed to put them away to make their vast superiority count.
As early as the 2nd minute, Ajakaye, who was top scorer for the FIFA U17 World Cup bronze-winning Flamingos two years ago, volleyed wide when it appeared easier to score.
In the quarter-hour, Chiamaka Okwuchukwu swung the ball into the visitors’ box from the wing, but the team’s leading scorer Janet Akekoromowei failed to convert the opportunity.
It was Okwuchukwu’s turn to miss in the 34th minute, when she could not convert a pull-out by Ajakaye.
Eight minutes after the restart, Ajakaye went on a solo run into the visitors’ eighteen-yard box, only to end with a weak shot that was easily collected by goalkeeper Amissa Inarukundo.
The deadlock was broken in the 78th minute by Ajakaye, who made hay with an assist by Akekoromowei.
Ajakaye scored again in the 90th minute but the goal did not stand.
The result put the Falconets through to the final tournament in Colombia later this year.
Nigeria has been an ever-present at the FIFA U20 Women’s World Cup, since it was launched as an U19 tournament in Canada 22 years ago, finishing as runners-up in 2010 and 2014, and reaching the semi-finals in Japan in 2012.