Nigeria women’s U17 team, flamingos lost the opening game of the FIFA U17 world cup 2-1 against European champions Germany.
The display of the Nigerian team can be summarized, as a game of two halves, with tactics and physicality deciding the direction.
There was a bit of coaching in their play, but the coaching team had no answer to the physical approach of the Germans in the second half.
First Things First Half
Nigeria tactically stood up to the high press in the first half.
The plan almost led to a goal after Ajakaye got to a stray pass and hit the ball with only a fingertip save from the German goalkeeper keeping it out.
Later on, the free-kick that led to the goal was also a result of the press. Captain Dah Zossou was brought down at the edge of the box before Usani netted from it.
Second Half: Physical Advantage, In-Game Management Made The Difference
A different Flamingos lacking confidence came out in the second half as the Germans dominated the game, physically and tactically.
The Germans were marking from the front, making it hard for flamingoes to move the ball, collapsing the midfield.
In size, the team was at a disadvantage, and by the time they went physical, the flamingos struggled. It was always going to affect them psychologically.
Coach Bankole attempted to compensate for the height disadvantage with Aminat Bello coming in for Taiwo, but that didn’t change the course of the game.
Flamingos: Experience Matters
Going up against European Champions was always a difficult proposition as the experience of playing a tournament was lacking for Nigeria.
At the U17 level, Flamingos’ level of exposure is low compared to the German ladies.
The Flamingoes didn’t play in a tournament like the Germans, who are European Champions.
Also, at this stage, how players execute instructions differs.
The first half was a case of proper pre-game tactics. The Germans noticed they were getting toast by flamingos’ determination and individual brilliance.
Germany switched things up in the second half, played a double lateral in the middle and flamingoes looked lost.
At that stage, Nigeria showed no in-game management to respond to their second-half tactical decision.
Overall, age-grade competitions are not about winning, but about development.
At the 2016 U17 Women’s World Cup in Jordan, Nigeria didn’t score a goal in three matches. They return home with just a point.
In that same Squad, Chiamaka Nnadozie, Akudo Ogbonna, Rasheedat Ajibade, Chindinma Okeke, Peace Efih, Christy Ucheibe, Opeyemi Sunday and others all graduated into the Super Falcons a few years after.