Nigeria coach Peter Dedevbo and captain Chiwendu Ihezuo think the Falconets did not deserve to exit the Papua New Guinea 2016 FIFA Under-20 World Cup at the group stages.
The Falconets walked off the field with their heads high after beating Spain 2-1 in their last group fixture at the PNG Football Stadium in Port Moresby. But the Canada 2014 silver runners-up crashed out of the tournament as the win failed to land them in the quarterfinals.
Nigeria needed a victory over Spain in their last Group B match, hoping for Japan’s defeat by Canada in the other group’s fixture to progress in the tournament.
But the Japanese pounded the Canadians 5-0 to lead the group and reached the quarters with Spain.
Alba Redondo put Spain to a swift start after six minutes with a low shot to Nigeria’s goalkeeper Onyinyechukwu Okeke’s right-hand side.
But Ihuoma Onyebuchi grabbed the equaliser for Nigeria six minutes to keep the match squared at 1-1 in the first half. The equaliser came after Charity Reuben nodded down a cross into the box for Onyebuchi to fire home.
Yetunde Adeboyejo failed to convert a clever chance created by Rasheedat Ajibade as Nigeria went into the offensive after recess. They missed good chances as they pegged the Saniards to their own half while launching a series of dangerous attacks.
However, the efforts paid off in the 72nd minute as captain Ihezuo scored Nigeria’s second goal.
The Falconets played the final six minutes with 10 players, after Glory Ogbonna picked up a second booking. But the Nigerians held on for the three points.
“We had lofty dreams of making it to the final or even going one better than we took our country in Canada in 2014, but it was not to be. Collectively and individually, we worked towards achieving that goal, but our best could not take us that far,” Dedevbo was quoted by the NFF’s official website as saying.
Kazakhstan-based Ihezuo said, “I had high hopes for this tournament. I even set a target of six goals for myself, but my dreams have been blown away like dust in the winds.”