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Gallant Falconets add to Nigeria’s weekend of sporting woes



In three global sporting battles, Nigeria lost all. First it was the dethroned worlld boxing champion, Anthony Joshua failing to regain his title from Ukraine’s Oleksandr Usyk in Saudi Arabia on Saturday night.

Almost about the same time, Nigeria’s Kamaru Usman lost his UFC welterweight title to British Lean Edwards. The cycle of miserable weekend was completed by the country’s U-20 women’s team, Falconets who crashed out of the World Cup following a 2-0 defeat by The Netherlands.  

A litany of factors, including poor finishing, hard luck and dodgy officiating by Costa Rican official Marianela Araya saw the Nigeria U20 girls bow out. 

Flourish Sabastine, who scored Nigeria’s three-point winner against France in the opening match of Group C, was cynically stopped in the Dutch’s box in the 7th minute, but just as she did all night, Araya looked away unimpressed.

Four minutes later, the Dutch were ahead, when Zera Hulswit rammed a perfect dipping shot beyond Omini Oyono as the conquerors of USA pulled away on the counter-attack.

In the 15th minute, Sabastine again pulled away and let fly, but the ball was tipped away by impressive goal-tender Claire Dinkla.


On the half-hour, Nigeria nearly got the leveller that their endeavour deserved when Deborah Abiodun seized the ball as the Dutch defence fell into confusion, but her own dipping shot from 25 metres rocked the crossbar and was then tipped away from the head of Chiamaka Okwuchukwu.

Only three minutes later, the deficit doubled against Nigeria, when the Dutch broke through the right once more, and with captain Oluwatosin Demehin and Omowumi Oshobukola in a fumble, Ziva Henry bundled the ball past Oyono.

Substitute Joy Jerry came close to pulling one back when her head met the ball from Rofiat Imuran’s cross in the 62nd minute, but the ball floated away.

Sabastine, forever unstoppable, was hacked severally in the Dutch penalty area as she darted in whenever she had the ball, but Araya saw no reason to award a penalty kick to Nigeria.

In the second minute of added time, a Dutch defender handled the ball in the box as Nigeria poured forward. But after consulting the Video Assistant Referee, Araya overturned her own decision to award a penalty kick.


Defeat meant elimination for a team that had won all three group phase matches, scoring five goals and conceding only one. 

Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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