Remembering Falconets fairy-tale feat at Germany 2010

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Today is exactly a decade when Nigeria nearly made global acclaim at the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup on 1 August 2010 only to lose in the final 2-0 to hosts Germany.

Nicknamed Falconets, the West Africans guided by Ndem Egan, displayed some gritty performances en route to the final after qualifying from a seemingly tough group that included Mexico, Japan and England.

Forward Desire Oparanozie brought the team level in their opening Group C 1-1 draw against England at the Implus Arena in Augsburg on 14 July. She was again on target in the 2-1 win over Japan three days later at the same venue.

Meanwhile, Ebere Orji was the star in the 1-1 draw against Mexico on 21 July as the Falconets finished in second position behind Mexico and progressed to the quarter-finals.

“One of the memories of our performance was that nobody believed in us while going to the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in Germany in 2010,” Egan which literally means ‘destiny child’ in the coach’s native Efik language in the South-South region of Nigeria told CAFOnline.com.

"One of the memories of our performance was that nobody believed in us while going to the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in Germany in 2010,” Ndem Egan

Indeed destiny played a crucial role as the team was nearly withdrawn following a Government imposed ban from all international competitions after the Super Eagles poor showing at the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. The Eagles crashed out after finishing bottom of their group which included Argentina, South Korea and Greece with just a point.

“However, the ban was lifted in time for us to go to Germany; and that is one thing I can never forget,” recalled Egan.

“We would not have played in Germany if the ban was not lifted by the Nigerian government and that period of uncertainty really affected our preparations for the tournament.”

In the meantime, fortune also favoured the Falconets in their quarter-final duel against USA when Helen Ukaonu lifted her side from the dead with a timely equalizer in the 79th minute after Amber Brooks had given the Americans a ninth- minute lead. 1-1 it ended after extra time forcing the game to penalties, where the Nigerians were clinical and triumphed 4-2 to set a date with Colombia at the last four.

Against the tough-playing South Americans in the semis at the Bielefelder Alm in Bielefeld, the Falconets defended in their numbers after Ebere Orji struck a second minute goal that sealed their victory en route to the final match of the tournament against the hosts.

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However, the Nigerians succumbed to the hosts in Bielefeld with Alexandra Popp opening the scores after eight minute and an own-goal by defender Osinachi Ohale in the dying seconds leaving the Germans the happier side in the decisive game.

“I was happy with our performance despite the fact that we lost to Germany in the final,” said Egan, who is currently the technical director of Nigeria Women’s Premier league side Pelican Stars.

“Coming out second and becoming the first team from Africa to achieve that feat was a personal joy. I’m happier today because some of the girls that I took to that competition later played for the senior national team (the Super Falcons) and some are still very much around,” explained Egan.

"Coming out second and becoming the first team from Africa to achieve that feat was a personal joy," Ndem Egan

CAFOnline.com traces the Falconets squad at Germany 2010;

Alaba Jonathan (Goalkeeper, Pelican Stars)

The former Pelican Stars goalkeeper featured was a member of Nigeria squad for the FIFA Women's World Cup France 2019 as a third choice to Tochukwu Oluehi and Chiamaka Nnadozie. She also helped Nigeria clinch the 2016 Women’s Africa Cup of Nations title in Cameroon.

Rabi Ihiabe (Goalkeeper, Rivers Angels)

A decade after her outing with the Falconets in Germany, Ihiabe has kept faith with Bayelsa Queens in the domestic league.

Marbel Egwuenu (Goalkeeper, Delta Queens)

Now 28, the goalkeeper retired after her stint with Nigerian side Delta Queens, leaving football for good and has since settled down to a new life in the United States of America.

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Blessing Edoho (Defender, Rivers Angels)

Despite her fine form at the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup in Germany, the defender has struggled to break into the senior team. The 27-year-old has since departed Rivers Angels to become a fortress for her hometown club Ibom Angels.

Gloria Ofoegbu (Defender, Rivers Angels)

The former Falconets captain suffered a knee injury at the 2014 Women’s Africa Cup of Nations in Namibia, with the senior team. The career-threatening injury saw the former Rivers Angels defender temporarily quit football. However, she is hopeful of a comeback after six years out.

Esther Michael (Defender, Sunshine Queens)

Hard to track her activities since 2010, Michael is currently playing for Confluence Queens in the Nigeria Women's Premier League.

Joy Jegede (Defender, Delta Queens)

In January 2020, the defender who captained the Falconets at Germany 2010, announced her retirement from football for both club and country at an early age of 28. She is married and focusing on her family.

Helen Ukaonu (Defender, Delta Queens)

The former defender was last on the books of Sunnanå SK in Sweden, but she has since quit football and settled down in Stockholm, where she is happily married with kids.

Osinachi Ohale (Defender, Delta Queens)

The four-time Women's Africa Cup of Nations winner recently parted ways with Spanish outfit CD Tacon, now christened Real Madrid. She has now joined AS Roma in Italy.

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Martina Ohadugha (Midfielder, Rivers Angels)

Since her outing with the Falconets in 2010, Ohadugba featured at the 2012 and 2014 editions of the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations, and the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup in Canada. The 29-year-old is a mainstay at Nigerian champions, Rivers Angels.

Cecilia Nku (Midfielder, Bayelsa Queens)

Having starred for Hungarian outfit Ferencvaros in 2019, Nku returned to help Rivers Angels to reclaim the Nigerian Women's Premier League title in early 2020. Before her brief stint in Hungary, the 27-year-old previously played for Norwegian topflight side Medkila in 2016.

Rebecca Kalu (Midfielder, Delta Queens)

Kalu enjoys her privacy. The 30-year-old last turned out for Rivers Angels before her retirement recently.

Glory Iroka (Midfielder, Rivers Angels)

She has stayed put with six-time Nigerian Women's Premier League winners Rivers Angels since her U-20 Women's World Cup outing in Germany a decade ago.

Amarachi Okoronkwo(Midfielder, Nasarawa Amazon)

The 27-year-old midfielder currently plays for 2017 Nigerian Women's Premier League champions Nasarawa Amazon, where she was discovered a decade ago.

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Esther Sunday (Forward, Sunshine Queens)

The 28-year-old forward has won three Women's Africa Cup of Nations titles in 2010, 2014 and 2016. She is currently in Turkey with Konak Belediyespor.

Ebere Orji (Forward, Rivers Angels)

After helping Umea to earn promotion to the Swedish Damallsvenskan, Orji left to join topflight outfit Linkoping on a one-year deal in the 2020 winter window.

Desire Oparanozie (Forward, Delta Queens)

After she captained the Super Falcons to the FIFA Women's World Cup Round of 16 in 2019 in France, the striker brought her six-year journey with French outfit Guingamp to a close in May 2020 and has since joined rivals Dijon.

Ngozi Ebere (Forward, Rivers Angel)

Ebere signed a one-year contract with Norwegian club Arna Bjomar from Cypriot side Barcelona FA last January.

Soo Adekwagh (Forward, Bayelsa Queens)

The forward last played for Naisten Liiga outfit TiPS in Finland last year.

Charity Adule (Forward, Pelicans)

Last year, Spanish side Eibar signed the striker from Kazanthani champions BIIK Kazygurt on a one-year deal and she helped the team to earn promotion to the Spanish Primera Iberdrola top-flight.

Uchechi Sunday (Forward, Rivers Angels)

The ex-Minsk forward currently turns out for Gjensidige Kvindeliga outfit FC Nordsjælland in Denmark and has made three league appearances since joining the club last year.

Photos@FIFA & Getty Images