Falconets battle Mexico in Canada

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Nigeria’s Falconets will begin their FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup campaign with a Group C opener against Mexico’s El Tri, in Moncton, Canada, on Wednesday. The competition began on Tuesday.

Nigeria’s other group foes, England and South Korea will engage each other earlier in the day.

The Falconets have met the Mexicans twice since the inception of the competition 12 years ago. The first time was in the group stage in 2010 in Germany, when Alina Garciamendez’s late goal cancelled out Ebere Orji’s 16th minute opener for a 1-1 stalemate, and then two years ago, in the quarterfinals, when Desire Oparanozie’s lone strike in extra time dashed Mexican hopes.

Coach Peter Dedevbo will be banking on the huge experience and unity in his team to brush aside the Mexican challenge in Moncton.

Midfielders Asisat Oshoala and Osarenoma Igbinovia; and defender Ugo Njoku were part of the Falconets squad that reached the semifinals at the last edition of the competition in Japan two years ago.

But the majority of the squad is made up of players from the 2012 Flamingoes side: Ebere Okoye, Chiwendu Ihezuo, Jiroro Idike, Halimatu Ayinde, Sarah Nnodim, Yetunde Adeboyejo and Victoria Aidelomon.

Striker Ihezuo, also played at this year’s U-17 Women’s World Cup alongside Uchenna Kanu.

Team captain Patience Okaeme said they have been working hard to ensure that they go one step further than the 2010 set, by winning the trophy.

“Our preparations for the tournament have been tough because we’ve been training twice a day. That’s what we were doing in Nigeria, and we’ve carried on here. I’m sure it’s going to help us when the competition starts,” the 19-year-old told fifa.com.

“We also know, though, that we made the last four (stage) two years back. This time we want to go further. We want to win the trophy and that means more pressure for the team, whether you like it or not.”

Okaeme missed the U-17 World Cup two years ago due to injury but now, she is excited at the prospect of playing in her first ever FIFA finals.

“I’ve been waiting a long time for this moment to come. I think I’m going to have fun in Canada and I’m going to experience a lot of things here,” she said.

The Falconets have attended every edition of the competition but their best outing was in 2010, when they lost in the final to hosts Germany.

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