Nigeria became the first African team to reach the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup final as they overcame Columbia with a 2nd-minute goal in Bielefeld. They now face Germany in the same stadium on Sunday, the host nation easing past Korea Republic to give themsleves a chance to lift the trophy for the second time.
The South American team gave their all as rain fell and made conditions difficult. They were restricted to few opportunitites by the powerful Falconets who seized on their early chance and then produced a solid, organised performance to delight their tuneful band of supporters who gradually drowned out both the Colombian cheerleaders and also a rival German band.
There was an amazing start to the game as Nigeria scored within the first two minutes. It began with what was no more than a hopeful punt upfield from captain Joy Jegede, standing just inside the opposition half. The ball landed in the penalty area where the high bounce took it over goalkeeper Paula Forero and against the bar. Only Ebere Orji was alive to the possibilities and she scored easily and without pressure.
Stung into action, Colombia looked for an immediate reply. Yorely Rincon, their most important performer in the absence through suspension of Lady Andrade, tried her luck from outside the area while Daniela Montoya was no closer as she took aim a little later.
A better chance for the South Americans came as a corner was flicked on and fell to captain Natalia Gaitan at the far post. By the time she had the ball under control the angle was tight however and with several defenders standing in the way the shot was deflected and fell kindly to a Nigeria player.
More pressure followed as Colombia worked the ball neatly to their front players. This time Rincon’s shot rose inches over the bar. Then suddenly the pacy west African were striding away on the counter-attack. Esther Sunday’s pass invited Desire Oparanozie to chase and she just got to the ball ahead of the goalkeeper. Natalia Gaitan was back to cover but didn’t get her clearance away and that put Oparanozie back in charge with the goal gaping before she tumbled over Gaitan and fell to the ground. No penalty was awarded.
It remained an even struggle in the second half with both teams struggling to carve out clear opportunities. Nigeria threatened through Desire Oparanozie who muscled her way through and saw a dangerous cross earn a corner. Orji, an impressive performer from first to last, worked a crossing chance which Natalia Ariza missed but Oparanozie could not take advantage.
As the half wore on however Colombia grew in belief and succeeded in pegging their opponents back. In the 73rd minute substitute Katerin Castro, who had proved an effective substitute, shot and the Nigeria goalkeeper struggled to field it cleanly.
That was followed by an outstanding drive from Rincon some way from goal. Alaba Jonathan was beaten but the ball came back off the bar with no one on hand to profit from the rebound.
The game ended with chances at both ends, Orji forcing the ball over from Oparanozie’s pull-back while Jonathan was grateful to hold onto a cross with Colombia’s forwards waiting to take advantage.