The ones for the future

Nigeria’s women’s U-17 Flamingos performance at the recently concluded FIFA U-17 Women World Cup in India has left a lot of Nigerians beaming with confidence again on the future of the country’s women’s senior team, APROKOVIBES Sports Extra reports.

The impressive display of the Bankole Olowookere’s young girls has been one of the bright spots in a largely catastrophic year for Nigeria women’s football.

The Super Falcons failed to defend the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations title they last won in Cameroon in 2019 after losing to South Africa in the group stage of the 2022 edition. They also suffered a 5-4 semi-final defeat to Morocco before crashing 1-0 in the third-place to Zambia.

Prior to their shambolic display, the nine-time Africa champions also failed to qualify for the rescheduled 2021 Olympics in Tokyo, Japan.

Their underwhelming performances in recent times have called for concerns among football faithful with former Falcons coach, Godwin Izilein, the latest making a call for some of the aging players in the team to be dropped.

“Football is not meant for old legs anymore, it is meant for youthful players who can strive hard. We should all appeal to those in charge because this is not the time to pay homage to anybody. They have served the country and their time is gone. They should give space for the younger ones,” Izilein told APROKOVIBES Sports Extra.

While it is almost impossible to overhaul an entire team at once, some players of the Flamingos have proven that with the right development they have what it takes to flourish and play at the highest level in a few years to come.

Despite failing to win their opening game against Germany, the young girls improved tremendously as the tournament progressed and against all odds, Flamingos beat the USA to reach the semi-finals of the U-17 Women’s World Cup for the first time before losing to Colombia via penalty shoot-out in the semi-final.

Nigerians will be proud of themselves because it’s the farthest the team has gone at the cadet championship since the tournament’s inception in 2008.

With the calls for Randy Waldrum to drop some aging legs in the Falcons team, APROKOVIBES Sports Extra Ebenezer Bajela takes a look at some of the few players who could replace the veterans in the future.

Opeyemi Ajakaye (Forward):

Top of the list of some of the Flamingos players to look out for in the future is forward Ajakaye, who dazzled at the just concluded World Cup in India. The 16-year-old scooped three Player of the Match awards in India and is expected to be named in the team of the tournament. Already tagged the new Asisat Oshoala due to her eye for goals, Ajakaye sure has a bright future ahead of her.

Taiwo Afolabi (Midfielder):

The midfielder is another player Nigerians will need to keep an eye on s she continues her progress to becoming a finished product. The midfielder, whose stunner against New Zealand is in contention for the goal of the tournament, is one of the stars to have emerged from the tournament. Cool-headed and commanding in the midfield, the youngster with the right programme has what it takes to become the Falcons’ anchor player in the midfielder in the next few years.

Comfort Folorunsho (Defender)

Putting aside her penalty miss against Colombia in the semi-final of the tournament, the tall defender didn’t put a foot wrong at the tournament in India. Folorunsho was solid at the back and helped the Flamingos keep three clean sheets at the tournament. She also made several clearances and blocks to keep the Nigerian side going and was always alert when called upon. Full of confidence, the youngster exhibited a performance way beyond her age, a testament to the fact that she is on her way to stardom.

Miracle Usani (Defender)

The right-back also had a good outing in India and will be proud of her performance against the United State when she was tasked with marking the American forward of Nigerian descent Onyeka Gorero. Usani stood her ground against her opposition and will be a valuable option to help solve the Falcons’ right-back issue.

Faith Omilana (Goalkeeper)

Barring any unforeseen circumstances, Chiamaka Nnadozie will continue to be the Falcons’ first-choice goalkeeper for the foreseeable future but youngster Omilana is one to also look out for. The shot-stopper produced some saves at the tournament with the game against the USA, the highlight of her displays at the tournament. Commanding in the air, the youngster will sure hope to give Nnadozie something to think of as she continues with her development.

Tumininu Adeshina (Defender)

The left-back shone at the tournament and created some fantastic chances with her quality crosses into the opponents’ areas. She combined well with Ajakaye to cause all sorts of problems and is a player who could be in contention for the player of the tournament nomination. With Ashley Plumptre, a centre-back, often deployed at the left-back position, Adeshina could prove to be a good backup for the Leicester City star as she develops.

Omowunmi Bello (Forward)

Bello, a very lively player whose presence was always a nightmare for opposition players is another player that in no time will make his way to the top. The forward is one of the revelations in India and was always involved in each of the Flamingos attacking plays.

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