Nigeria's players and coach were caught in a tangle of mixed emotions following their final Group B game against Spain at the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup Papua New Guinea 2016.
The African side could justifiably look back on a precious victory against the UEFA European Women's U-19 Championship runners-up, coming out on top to finish level on points with their opponents and Japan. Having lost heavily to Japan on the opening day, however, Nigeria were left facing an early trip home due to their inferior goal difference.
That did not stop them from a lengthy bout of celebrations after the final whistle, with captain Chinwendu Ihezuo bringing her team-mates together before they congratulated their Spanish rivals in an admirable spirit of fair play. As for coach Peter Dedevbo, he was left nursing regrets after hoping to build on Nigeria's runners-up finish two years ago.
After the game, FIFA.comspoke to the man in charge about his team's performances at Papua New Guinea 2016 and their group stage elimination.
FIFA.com: Despite beating Spain today, your team have been knocked out of the tournament. What would you pinpoint as the reasons for your early exit?
Peter Dedevbo:In the first match against Japan, we lost 6-0. That defeat is very painful because it cost us qualification to the next round.
How did you motivate your players after that heavy defeat? Your team bounced back with wins against Canada and Spain.
When you lose the first match in a competition, you have to work very hard to get back in the saddle. You need to win, and that's what we did. After the first game, we told the players they absolutely had to win the next two matches, and that message went over well. We tried to score as many goals as possible, but it wasn't enough to keep us in the tournament.
Your players celebrated the win today even though it did not result in qualification.
They were pleased to have won because nobody will be disappointed with our performance when we return home. We still managed to win two matches.
You do not seem happy, on the other hand.
That's true, because I hadn't foreseen us getting knocked out. We wanted to go far in this tournament.
What do you think your players will have learned from this competition?
They know now that the first match is the most important in the whole tournament because it sets the tone for the rest. When you lose the first game, it's difficult to get back in the running.