A stoppage time own goal by Jiaxing Dou earned Nigeria a highly-dramatic 1-1 draw against China PR in Dinan-Lehon, France yesterday as Falconets claimed a spot in the quarter-finals of the ongoing FIFA Under-20 Women’s World Cup.
Needing an outright victory to leapfrog Falconets to the runners-up spot of Group D, China was the more adventurous side in the first half at the Stade du Clos Gastel.
Zhang Linyan gave China the breakthrough they needed with a 41st minute goal, and they were on their way to the last eight before the own goal that ensured the Falconets finished Group D in second place on goals balance from the Asians, though on same number of points (four).
Mengyu Shen had the first chance of the match on 25 minutes when she hit the Nigeria crossbar. A few minutes later, captain Linlin Wang headed over the target from close range.
China’s breakthrough came four minutes before half-time, as the diminutive Zhang turned her Nigerian marker in the box and stroked the ball past a diving Chiamaka Nnadozie to give the Asians the lead at the break.
The Super Falconets pushed hard in search of an equaliser in the second half, but found the China backline and goalkeeper Huan Xu in resilient form until the end of the contest.
With seconds left to play, substitute Aishat Bello’s byline cross from the right saw captain Rashdeedat Ajibade challenge for the ball with China right-back Jiaxing Dou. Bello’s cross struck the Chinese defender before nestling in the back of the net and sparking emotional celebrations from the Falconets at the full-time whistle.
The Falconets will now have to battle impressive Spain on Thursday for place in the last-four. Kick-off time on Thursday is 2pm. Spain topped Group C with seven points in a group that also had the USA and Paraguay.They have so far scored seven goals and let in three goals.
General Secretary of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), Dr. Mohammed Sanusi, praised the ladies for their effort: “The Falconets deserve commendation for the way they fought all the way to the end and got the important goal.
“The NFF is proud of their dedication, discipline and commitment, and we believe they have what it takes to overcome Spain in the quarter finals,” observed the NFF scribe.
In the other match of the group, Germany finished the group stage with a maximum nine points after a 3-2 victory against Haiti at Vannes’s Stade de la Rabine.
Laura Freigang opened the scoring from close range, before Kristin Kogel doubled the lead shortly after the break.
Klara Buhl made it three for Germany on the hour-mark, while Haiti captain Nerilia Mondesir netted a second-half brace to put pressure on the Germans. After making it three wins from three, Maren Meinert’s team will now face Japan – who finished second in Group C – in France 2018’s quarter-finals.