Nigeria Secures U-20 Women’s World Cup Qualification

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Nigeria’s U-20 women’s team, the Falconets, clinched a hard-fought victory over Tanzania, securing their passage to the final round of qualifiers for the 2024 U-20 Women’s World Cup. The tension-laden fixture concluded with a 2-1 victory for the Falconets, marking a 3-2 aggregate win, after the first leg ended in a 1-1 draw in Dar es Salaam.

The Falconets, with a storied history as 2022 World Cup quarter-finalists, demonstrated their determination from the outset, dominating the Tanzanian visitors. However, early on, the former U-17 striker, Opeyemi Ajakaye, struggled with finishing, squandering opportunities that could have given Nigeria an early lead.

Janet Akekoromowei eventually broke the deadlock in the 16th minute, unleashing a powerful shot from the edge of the box after a well-placed pass from Taiwo Afolabi. Yet, Tanzania swiftly responded, capitalizing on a goalkeeping error as Shukura Bakare fumbled a seemingly harmless free-kick, allowing Jamila Mnunduka to bundle the ball over the line, leveling the score.

Nigeria’s quest for the lead faced additional challenges as goalkeeper Zulfa Ally Makau thwarted a formidable free-kick from defender Shukurat Oladipo. Ajakaye’s struggles continued as she missed another opportunity in the 33rd minute, keeping the match on a knife’s edge.

The defining moment arrived in the 60th minute when defender Comfort Folorunsho shattered the deadlock, heading home from Afolabi’s cross after a set-piece from a corner kick. Folorunsho’s goal not only secured the Falconets’ victory in this encounter but also broke the string of 1-1 draws that had plagued Nigeria’s national teams in recent weeks.

With this hard-fought win, the Falconets advance to the final round of qualifiers, where they are set to face Burundi. The stakes are high as the outcome of this upcoming fixture will determine one of Africa’s representatives at the 2024 U-20 Women’s World Cup, hosted by Colombia next year.

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