Coach Bankole Olowookere has said that his Nigeria U17 girls, Flamingos, are inspired by the desire to make Nigerians happy by earning a ticket to the FIFA World Cup finals by confronting Ethiopia U17 girls in a final round, final leg match at the MKO Abiola National Stadium, Abuja, on Saturday.
He said, “Our main objective is to do Nigeria proud, make Nigerians happy with the World Cup ticket. We will not under-rate the Ethiopians because they are a good team who also qualified to this stage.
“We defeated them 1-0 in their country but that does not mean we should assume the ticket is won. We must work hard and keep our heads up until the referee’s final whistle. No match ends until it is called to an end by the referee.
“We are focused on the task at hand. The Ethiopians have shown a flair for playing better on away ground and that is one thing we have taken on board. The best approach will be to keep the ball away from them while we do the playing.
“We have been working on that since we returned from Addis Ababa and I believe we have the energy and the stamina for that approach,” Olowookere added.
The Flamingos have scored a total of 15 goals in this qualifying campaign, conceding none. They scored a total of eight goals in a two-leg blizzard against the Democratic Republic of Congo and then shot six past Egypt in Abuja and Cairo. The rearguard and goalkeeper Faith Omilana have stolidly maintained a pristine record.
Aggregate victory over the Ethiopians, who turned back Uganda and South Africa in earlier rounds, would mean a direct flight to India for this year’s FIFA U17 Women’s World Cup finals – the seventh edition since the competition was launched in New Zealand in 2008. The finals in India will hold from 11th – 30th October.
Olowookere will bank principally on the twin-attack force of Opeyemi Ajakaiye and Aminat Omowunmi Bello, who between them have scored nine of the team’s goals in their five matches so far. Ajakaiye is ahead with six goals while Bello has three. The match kicks off at 4pm.
Meanwhile, officials for the big match have arrived in Nigeria on Thursday. The officials were led by Senegalese referee Mame Coumba Faye, who will take charge of proceedings. She will be assisted by compatriots Adia Isseu Cisse (assistant referee 1), Fatou Bintou Sene (assistant referee 2) and Fatou Thioune (fourth official).
The match commissioner is Aisha Nalule from Uganda while Emmanuella Grace Aglago from Ghana will serve as the referee assessor.
The Trumpet reports that since the competition was launched in New Zealand in 2008, Nigeria only failed to qualify for the 2018 edition whose final was held in Uruguay.