The Nigeria team who will contest Sunday’s final of the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup against Germany are proving the talk of their country back home, but coach Ndem Egan thinks his girls can withstand the stress of the big event and lift the trophy on Sunday afternoon.
With even Nigeria’s president and first lady counted as high-profile supporters, there is certainly more attention on the Falconets than was expected at the start of the tournament. But the west Africans have a solid pedigree in women’s football, and Egan says the current squad are taking great strength from their performances so far in the finals.
We will also have to play against the home crowd but that does not distract us because we know very well what we are going to face. It won’t dampen our morale.
"You can’t really say that Germany will be the toughest opponent we have yet faced in this tournament because we don’t know," said Egan about the Germans, who are leading scorers in the tournament with 18 goals, possess the individual top markswoman in Alexandra Popp, who has nine tallies, and are overwhelming favourites to lift their second youth crown. "We have seen Germany play other teams but they haven’t played Nigeria before. We are a good team, and we are not feeling we can’t beat Germany. It is going to be an interesting match and it won’t be easy for Gemany."
The Nigeria team appeared nervous before the start of their semi-final with Colombia as if they were suddenly alive to the pressure on their shoulders. They then had the boost of a second-minute goal through Ebere Orji, which ultimately proved enough to win the game and helped settle them down.
It might be in their favour that the overwhelming support will be for the other side in the final, which will be hosted by Bielefeld. "We will also have to play against the home crowd but that does not distract us because we know very well what we are going to face. It won’t dampen our morale," Egan added. "We are now at the point where we don’t have any supporters, we are on our own. But with God there is nothing that can’t happen."