02 August 2018 12:45
She is regarded as the poster girl of the Nigeria U-20 Women’s national team after her goals practically took the West Africans to their ninth FIFA World Cup appearance. Her name is Rasheedat Ajibade. She has set her eyes on greater things in France when the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup takes place.
The Falconets as the Nigerians are affectionately called, have impressive records at this level and were twice runners up at the 2010 finals in Germany and four years later in Canada. However, the Nigerians failed to progress from their group at the last edition in Papua New Guinea even with the presence of free-scoring Ajibade.
“The last FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in Papua New Guinea was a great personal experience for me. We were edged out of the group stage on goal difference despite finishing on same points with Japan and Spain,” the 18-year-old Ajibade told CAFOnline.com.
“I’m very hopeful France 2018 would be a greater and better experience; it’s the same competition and the same platform for me. I just have to put up my best performance this time since I won’t have another opportunity to play at the U-20 level again.”
In the meantime, Ajibade has been consistent in form and last year, she was joint- top scorer in the Nigeria Women Premier League (eight goals) and enjoyed some rave reviews with FC Robo where she is the captain.
Thereafter, she was drafted to the senior national team for the regional 2018 WAFU Women’s Cup in Cote d'Ivoire where she scored a hat-trick against Senegal at the group stage as the Super Falcons finished third.
“It is true that I have been consistent in terms of performance; the most important thing is ensuring that I do better than my previous outings,” posited Ajibade who scored twice for Nigeria at the 2014 FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup in Costa Rica.
“I think it (France 218) is going to be a great tournament especially if I could apply at least 70 per cent of what I have been taught by the coaching crew. We are well prepared for the task; I want to do the best because I consider every opportunity to play for my country a dream come true.”
Ajibade, indeed had a dream campaign with the Falconets in the continental qualifiers where she remarkably scored 10 goals in six matches to emerge joint-top scorer with Ghana’s Princella Adubea. Ahead of the 9th FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in France, Ajibade is relishing the prospect of notching up more goals.
“I think I can replicate my goal scoring form in France. Though, the African qualifiers are different from the World Cup, trust me to score when I get the opportunity and I’ll surely do my best.
“Scoring goals is divine because you can play well and not getting the goals. At the same time you might not even play well but the goals could come; I’m therefore praying for the best at this World Cup.”
Speaking further Ajibade is optimistic that the Falconets can weather the storm in their seemingly tough Group D opener against three-time champions Germany on 6 August 2018 at Stade Marville in Saint-Malo; to be followed with the game against Haiti three days later at the same venue and the last encounter against two-time runners-up China on 13 August 2018 at Stade du Clos Gastel in Dinan-Lehon.
“There is nothing impossible to do and irrespective of the calibre of the teams in our group, we have all what it takes to do well in Franc. We don’t have to show any complex or be intimidated with the World Cup atmosphere and just follow through the instructions of our coach who has really prepared us mentally.
“We have all what it takes to win the trophy; we just have to continue with the same strong mentality we showed during the African qualifiers,” she noted.
Meanwhile, Head Coach Christopher Danjuma is equally upbeat that the Falconets can make the continent proud in France.
“We have a good chance of surpassing our past record at the tournament. We have studied our opponents and I think we can deal with their strengths.”
The Nigerians fine-tune their preparations with a training tour of Austria before emplaning for France.