An unforgettable first time

Still beaming after his side's 3-0 penalty shoot-out victory against Spain, Oladele Ajiboye was more than happy to talk to, but the conversation took an interesting slant when the topic of spot-kicks arose.

"I'm not a penalty saving specialist, far from it," he smiled. "I've been a goalkeeper all my life, but this was my first-ever penalty shoot-out. That's why I celebrated so much after saving Spain's second penalty. I was so happy.

"Unlike some keepers who watch the taker's eyes or their arm, I wait to see where the ball going and then follow it. By saving two of the penalties, I'd have to say that it was my greatest-ever performance as a goalkeeper."

Throughout the tournament, Ajiboye has been one of Nigeria's most consistent players. While the likes of Macauley Christantus, Rabiu Ibrahim and Sheriff Isa have hit the headlines for their performances up front, the 1.78m stopper has been happy to remain in the background.

The 17-year-old, who plays for Prime in Nigeria was Spain's bane at several crucial points in the match, denying both Daniel Aquino and Iago in the closing stages of normal time. He saved low to his left to frustrate Aquino, but for Ajiboye, his greatest moment was to stop a shot from the Barcelona starlet.

"I think my best save in the match came from Iago," he said. "When he first hit it, I thought it was going over, but to make sure, I got a hand to it to tip it over the bar.

"In doing so, I got all tangled up in the net, but I made the right decision. If I'd have left it, it would have probably gone in and then we would have really struggled to equalise in the short time remaining."

But for tonight, at least, it was Ajiboye who was enjoying his place in the spotlight. The charismatic keeper was mobbed by his team-mates after he saved Iago's penalty and he is convinced that the memories of the win will stay with him for a very long time indeed.

"I'm on the top of the world," he smiled, "I'm happy because we have made history. We have emulated the achievements of the Nigerian players who have won this event twice before. As a team we promised ourselves before the tournament that we would return home with the trophy and we have done it!"