Being one of only seven teams to have participated in every FIFA U17 Women’s World Cup is such an achievement. Whether it’s New Zealand, who have never made it beyond the group stage, or North Korea, who are the most successful team of the tournament yet.
Nigeria are also in this elite few, maybe somewhere in between, having made it to the Quarter finals in all but the first edition, so it is no doubt they have their eyes now set on becoming the second African country after Ghana to progress into the last four.
This was the same target that was not reached the last time out in Costa Rica 2014, however, Coach Bala Nikyu has insisted that “Ill luck” was behind their ouster even as he hopes for a better luck this time.
“We ended up in Quarter Finals in Costa Rica because of ill luck not because we had a bad team, so if you are thinking of differentiating between that team and this one, then I’ll now tell you that they are still playing the same football,” Nikyu stated at Friday’s pre-match Press conference ahead of their Group C tie against Brazil on Saturday.
“It still all boils down to luck,” he argued. “They say you can have the best team and still lose that is the element of ill luck. You can have the worst team and have the element of luck and still win.”
Now, one might want to ask if it was really ill luck that influenced Nigeria’s 3-0 Quarter Final loss to Spain in 2014.
Nonetheless, backing the comments of her coach, Captain of the side Rasheedat Ajibade added that prayer is always key, however hard you work. She further explained that it is the reason why it was significant for the team to pray before and after games and training sessions. A ritual of virtually every national team in Nigeria.
“The reason is because no matter how good or strong your team is, if the hand of God is not there, it is to no avail, there is no way you can succeed. So we believe in God,” Ajibade explained.
“The training and preparation we have done at our home ground, we always back it up with prayers because we know with our level of fitness, with the level of training we have received from our coach, we can do it. Like our coach has said, ‘luck’, and that luck is the grace of God.”
The FC Robo of Nigeria captain who emerged top scorer in the 2016 African U-17 Women’s World Cup Qualifying with eight goals, is making her second appearance at a FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup and is looking to be a lot more impressive than she was in costa Rica 2014.
The Flamingos of Nigeria on Friday had their final training session ahead of what is expected to be an interesting and maybe a decisive clash against Brazil on Saturday considering they are in the same seemingly unpredictable group as North Korea and England.
In a recent international friendly decided in Jordan, Brazil lost 2-0 to debutants Cameroon in their build up to the FIFA U17 Women’s World Cup.
When asked if that would serve as some sort of inspiration for his Flamingos to soar above the South Americans, coach Nikyu said:
“Cameroon played Brazil, that is a different ball game. In a friendly match, a team can decide to put out weaker players, they don’t care how many times you beat them provided they get what they want.
“Friendly matches are played to get what you want, not to win. So Cameroon beating Brazil is not a yard stick. We are here to play. That’s all.”
On the flip side, Nigeria themselves did not have the opportunity of testing their level of preparation in international friendlies, but they should have definitely gathered confidence from claiming six wins and one draw against local based sides with Ajibade as leading scorer.
In any case, we look out for Nigeria and how far luck, prayer and of course work can take them this time. They begin their Jordan 2016 journey against Brazil at the King Abdullah Stadium, Amman (16:00) Local time