Nigeria’s U-17 girls, Flamingos on Sunday had to battle both their Ethiopian counterparts and an unfriendly weather in Addis Ababa, but still came off the pitch with a 1-1 draw in the second round, first leg of a 2018 FIFA U17 Women’s World Cup qualifying fixture.
Joy Jerry put the Nigerian girls in front after 20 minutes as they struggled to cope with the biting weather, and although the hosts created a number of chances, the scoreline stayed that way until the end of the first half.
The cold affected the Flamingos even more in the second half, and in the 62nd minute, the Ethiopians achieved parity with a free –kick from 35 metres that surprisingly beat goalkeeper and captain Christian Obia.
“The weather did not help matters. Even us adults were uncomfortable; you can imagine what the young ladies were going through on the pitch. Most of them had never gone beyond the shores of Nigeria or experience this kind of climate before,” Abdulrafiu Yusuf, former Nigerian international and NFF’s Assistant Director (Technical), told thenff.com at the end of the encounter.
Coach Bala Nikyu started the match with Christiana Obia, Omowunmi Oshobukola, Onyinyechi Christopher, Favour Emmanuel, Esther Momoh, Fehintola Mabokanje, Yetunde Fajobi, Grace Aondoseer, Martha Vincent, Esther Onyenezide and Joy Jerry. On the substitutes’ bench were goalkeeper Omini Oyono, Mercy Idoko, Oluchi Nnadi, Patricia Innocent, Tarnum Dooshima, Abibat Abdulgodir and Victoria Bassey.
Nikyu said: “The weather did not help but I don’t like to give excuses for my team’s performance. We have to work very hard when we return to Nigeria, ahead of the return leg. We must be more potent in attack and find a way to curtail the Ethiopians.”
The Flamingos’ delegation, led by former NFF Board Member, ranking member of the House of Representatives and Chairman of the NFF Women’s Football Committee, Hon. Ayo Omidiran will return to Nigeria on Monday.
The return leg comes up at the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium, Benin City on Saturday, 16thDecember 2017, with the winner on aggregate to take on the winner of the Cameroon/Algeria fixture in the second and final round of the series. Cameroon defeated Algeria 4-0 away in Algiers on Friday.
The 6th FIFA U17 Women’s World Cup finals will hold in Uruguay 20th November – 13thDecember 2018. Nigeria’s Flamingos have been an ever – present at the competition since it was launched in New Zealand in 2008.