Nigeria is one of four teams - the others being Brazil, Germany and USA - who have been omnipresent at the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup. After failing to advance to the knockout stages at their first two attempts, they qualified for the quarter-finals in 2006 and 2008, but lost to Brazil and France respectively. The Super Falconets came of age in the last two tournaments, both times making it to the semi-finals. In Germany 2010 they were beaten just once - in the final by the hosts. Two years later the west Africans topped their group and beat Mexico in the last eight, before being beaten by USA in the semi-finals. While the Americans went on to win the tournament, Nigeria lost the play-off to Japan 2-1 to finish fourth.
Without doubt, Nigeria will have one of the most experienced teams in Canada with many of their players used during qualifying having already participated at various global competitions. At least a dozen of the players who represented the country at the FIFA U-17 tournament in Azerbaijan two years ago are in contention for a place in Peter Dedevbo's squad for Canada 2014, while the star of the team Uchechi Sunday represented the Super Falcons at the FIFA Women's World Cup in 2011, and was in the U-20 squad when Nigeria finished second at Germany 2010. Four of the U-20 team from 2012 could also make the trip to Canada. "This team has been together for a long time. They understand each other," said Dedevbo, who was also in charge of the U-17 side in Azerbaijan two years ago and moved up to the older division with most of his players.
Many of the players from the youth ranks have gone on to represent the senior side, and just five players from the 23 selected for the World Cup in Germany in 2011 had not previously played at the U-17 or U-20 World Cups. Dedevbo, who also coaches the Nigerian women's champions Delta Queens, is confident that the future of women's football in the country is bright. "We are very strong in women's football at youth level because we have a good grassroots programme. We have competitions for them that encourage these players to play and that improves them." He is particularly optimistic about his current team. "This present under-20 team is the baby team of the federation, they like the team so much. They know the team can go places and they give us so much encouragement."
|5||Esther Eno EDEM|