Duro Ikhazuagbe with agency report
As Nigeria’s Super Falcons take on host France today at the ongoing Women’s World Cup in Rennes, goalkeeper Chiamaka Nnadozie has promised Les Bleues will not be as lucky as they were during their friendly clash last year.
The 18-year old goal tender was between the sticks when France hammered Falcons 8-0 in that friendly.
But Nnadozie is adamant that history won’t repeat itself.
“I know they will feel relaxed, thinking that they may score more than eight goals this time again,” observed the Falcons keeper who kept a clean slate in her first World Cup action against South Korea last week.
She however admitted that today’s clash was going to be tough, given the fact that the hosts have maintained 100 per cent start to their campaign with two victories.
“It’s going to be a tough game. They (Les Bleues) are one of the best teams in the competition, but we are letting them know that it’s not going to be like that again.
“That (defeat) was last year. I know we are not going to lose. We are going to make our country proud,” Nnadozie reassured Nigerian fans ahead of the game.
Coach Thomas Dennerby handed Nnadozie her first World Cup starting shirt against Korea last Wednesday with the confidence that the Imo-born goalkeeper was not going to disappoint.
Nigeria entered the second match against Korea under the pressure of knowing that only victory would preserve realistic hope of a top-two finish in Group A after conceding 0-3 to Norway in her opening game.
And Nnadozie responded with a clean sheet in the 2-0 victory for the African champions.
“My coach called me and said, ‘This is your time’,” Nnadozie told FIFA.com yesterday. “It was a dream that came true.”
Nnazodie’s rise in Nigerian women’s football has been rapid.
She started playing football as a 12-year-old and was quickly elevated into the U-17 and U-20 national teams.
Last year she pulled on the gloves at the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup and displayed her potential in a Player of the Match performance against Haiti in Brittany.
It was in that tournament that Nnadozie set her sights on returning to France for the senior global finals.
“I knew it was going to come true, because when I was coming up my coach used to tell me, ‘Work hard, you will get there’,” she said. “I really worked for it. Every time at training, I gave it my best. Even if I was tired, I would keep pushing.”
Nnadozie carried only one target into France 2019.
“I told myself that before the end of the tournament, by God’s grace, I must keep goal in one match,” she said. “When I was called upon to keep goal, though I was a little bit scared, I encouraged myself, I told myself, ‘Come on, you’ve been doing it during the friendly matches, so you have to do it now’.”
Nnadozie achieved her pre-tournament goal in a performance against Korea Republic that demonstrated poise and maturity beyond her years. She became, at 18 years and 186 days, the youngest goalkeeper to keep a clean sheet at the Women’s World Cup.
“After the match, when I saw the post, I was so happy,” said Nnadozie. “A young girl like me getting a good record, I was so proud of myself.
“I am so proud of the defence. They did great. I know I can’t do it without them – they made it possible for me,” she observed further.
Nigeria’s power-playing trio – Desire Oparanozie, Rita Chikwelu and Francisca Ordega – all must play with caution as they are each on a yellow card and would be ruled out of the Round of 16 if they are cautioned against the Les Bleues this evening.