The Super Falconet of Nigeria – Glorious March to Stardom

The Falconets stormed Chile in 2008 with high expectations from millions of Nigerians back home. They were grouped alongside Chile, England and New Zea-land. The team led by Coach Daniel Evumena, had a brilliant outing, as they defeated New Zea-land 3-2, in an action packed opening encounter. In their second game, the Falconets drew 1-1 with England, before inflicting a 2-0 defeat on Chile in their last group match. They qualified for the quarterfinal, where they were paired with France. The Quarter final clash was a five goal thriller, which ended 3-2 in favor of France. The Falconets thus crashed out of the tournament, but they held their head high up with their scintillating tournament.

The team returned to the World stage in 2010 when the tournament was hosted by Germany. The team started their campaign on a bright note when they drew 1-1 with England in a game that saw Desire Oparanozie scoring the decisive equalizer to give Nigeria a deserved point. In their second group game played against Japan at the Impuls Arena, the Falconets created a major upset by beating top favorite Japan 2-1 in a game that saw Amarachi Okoronkwo and Desire Oparanozie scoring for the Nigerian side. The stage was then set for their final group clash against Mexico, and the Nigerians who were already sure of a place in the quarterfinals, rallied to a 1-1 draw to place second in their group.

At the quarterfinal stage, Nigeria was grouped alongside reigning champions USA. It was a classical match up that saw the best of African football. Amber Brooks of USA had put her team ahead as early as the 9th minutes, and it seemed like the goal would be enough to book them a place in the last four, when from the blues, Helen Ukaonu fired a rocket of a free kick into the top corner of the USA goal in the 79th minutes to level scores 1-1. The game was then decided on penalty shootout that saw the Nigerians triumph over their USA counterpart 4-2. It was a momentous occasion for female football in Africa, as no African country had ever defeated USA at that level.

The semi final pairing saw Nigeria clashing with South America new comer-Colombia. It was a game that was decided by an early goal scored by diminutive Ebere Orji in the 2nd minutes of play, after the Colombian goalkeeper-Paula Forero failed to deal with a long ball played into her goal area. The win saw Nigeria entering history book as the first African side to qualify for the finals of the FIFA Women World Cup.

In the final decided at Schuco Arena in Bielefeld, Germany proved a handful for the young Nigerians who were overwhelmed by the occasion. They won the encounter 2-0 with the Nigerians settling for a well deserved Silver medal.

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