It was a fair guess three weeks ago that Germany, tournament hosts and one of the undoubted powerhouses of women’s football, would reach the final of the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup 2010. Few, however, would have predicted that Nigeria, representatives of an African continent which had never before sampled life beyond the quarter-finals of any FIFA Women’s World Cup or Olympic Games, would be standing shoulder-to-shoulder with them. Sunday’s final in Bielefeld is therefore full of intrigue and fascination.
After 30 games, we have reached the climax with the host nation willing their team on and hoping to add a second youth title - they were also victorious in Thailand in 2004 - to the FIFA Women’s World Cup they lifted for a second successive time in China 2007. And those who would like to see a new name inscribed on the trophy, and the impetus for a huge forward push for the African women’s game, will be firmly on the side of the Falconets.
Germany-Nigeria, Bielefeld, Sunday, 15:00 (local time)
On one side, you have the free-scoring German attack who have ransacked defences to the tune of 18 goals so far in this tournament with their penalty-box princess, Alexandra Popp, accounting for half of those. By contrast, Nigeria have struck only six times in their five matches and are the lowest-scoring finalists this competition has ever known.
However, the west Africans are able to defend their goal with all their might, conceding just four goals in five games and never more than one per game. That includes the full 120 minutes against USA, who were one of the strongest attacking teams on display.
It’s likely that Germany, winners in all their five games while Nigeria were held to draws in two of their three group games, will dominate possession through their midfield star Kim Kulig and playmaker Dzsenifer Marozsan. Against them, Nigeria are sure to close defensive ranks and look to break out quickly through the speedy Ebere Orji and Glory Iroka, with the aim of enabling Desire Oparanozie to power in on goal.
The sides have met once before at youth level and on that occasion it needed a penalty shootout to separate them. In the 2004 quarter-final, Germany grabbed an 86th-minute equaliser from Anja Mittag to force extra-time and she also scored the fifth and decisive penalty, with Nigeria missing one of theirs.
18- The average minute when Germany register their first goal. On three occasions they have scored inside the first 15 minutes. They were slowest off the mark in their quarter-final against Korea DPR, scoring in the 43rd minute.
"We are not worried about all the goals Germany have scored in this World Cup because it depends on who they are playing against. Sometimes you face a team who don’t allow you any chances and I am pleased with my defenders,” Ndem Egan, Nigeria coach.