Nigeria’s U20 girls, Falconets, have earned a place at this year’s FIFA U20 Women’s World Cup finals after a brace by Opeyemi Ajakaye eventually brought down hard-fighting Burundi in a final round, second leg encounter at the MKO Abiola National Stadium on Saturday evening. This tallied to a 3-0 aggregate victory for Nigeria in the final round of the qualifying race in Africa.
The Falconets had won the first leg 1-0 in Dar es Salaam six days ago.
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, Opeyemi 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 then scored the second goal on the dot of time to 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.