It’s a game that still plays on their minds, but Sarah Nnodim and Oluchi Ofoegbu are planning not to crash out of the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup Azerbaijan 2012 the same way they did at Trinidad and Tobago 2010.
Having cruised through the first round, beating the hosts, reigning champions Korea DPR and Chile to top Group A with maximum points and scoring ten goals in the process, they squared up against Korea Republic in the quarter-final in Marabella.
The game that followed was an absolute classic. Nigeria were 2-0 and 3-2 up in the first half, before needing an Ngozi Okobi strike at the death to force extra-time at 4-4. However Korea rallied, scoring twice more, and while Loveth Ayila got her second of the game – 101 minutes after her first – it finished 6-5.
Speaking to FIFA.com, the Flamingoes pair realise with hindsight where they went wrong. “We lost because of a lack of experience and a lack of concentration,” said confident centre-back Nnodim. “But we believe this time around we are able to pick up the trophy.”
Ofoegbu admits to fond memories of their Caribbean adventure two years ago, but defeat has instilled a steely determination in the tenacious midfielder. “It was amazing at Trinidad and Tobago 2010. We lost that game because of a lack of concentration, but this time around I believe that we will make it up to ourselves.
“The game of football is all about experience, we believe we have learnt from our loss in 2010, so we have gained experience because of it and we will not let it happen again.”
As well as their mental growth over the past two years, the green-clad duo was unwavering in their assessment of their own technical and footballing development. In reply to whether they had improved as players, a synchronised and vigorous: “Yes, very much so”, was their confident and crystal clear appraisal, and why not?
Azerbaijan 2012 has so far been a very positive tournament for Nigeria. Nnodim, the taller of the pair, presided over a tight defensive display in their 1-1 draw against CONCACAF U-17 Championship runners-up Canada, a game which they rattled the woodwork no less than four times. Ofoegbu meanwhile was a central cog in Tuesday’s 11-0 victory over the hosts, a result that neither can remember bettering but both agree can be improved on.
The well-built defensive midfielder’s belief that her understanding of the game and her team had improved couldn’t have been more evident with her assist for their second goal. When her electric pace allowed her to charge from midfielder and break through the backline, she instinctively looked for Halimatu Ayinde who was on hand to tap in her cross.
With the likes of Chinwendu Ihezuo, who got five and set up three, on form and the experience of fellow Trinidad and Tobago veterans Ayinde, captain Victoria Aidelomon and defender Ebere Okoye, Nigeria look in good shape to challenge. Nnodim particularly feels this just could be their time. “We are ready for this tournament and we believe we will lift the trophy because this time we are prepared for it.”