By Amaechi Agbo
The chief coach of Nigeria’s Under 17 female national team, the Flamingos, Bala Nikyu has said that Nigeria would qualify for the Uruguay 2018 World Cup.
The coach, who expressed optimism over the chances of Nigeria’s female teams doing well in the FIFA tournaments, was of the view that Nigerian female teams have not been accorded the rightful position locally because Nigerian football fans and stakeholders believe that the best way to assess a team’s performance is by winning trophy.
He recalled that since the inception of the FIFA Under17 Women’s World Cup, Nigeria has qualified in all the competitions noting that Uruguay 2018 would not be an exception.
The coach was of the view that with time, Nigeria female teams will come of age to challenge the world powers in female football.
According to the gaffer, “Everything is time. It is not that the female are doing badly in World Cup proper. I think the Under 20 has been able to play in the final which they lost. The two female cadet teams have been doing their best in global competitions. Unfortunately the only person who has been able to win and have the trophy is regarded as the winner. If you have not been able to win the trophy, maybe you can say you have not been doing well. But I have the belief that with time we will get across it,” he said.
On the performance of his team so far and their chances of qualifying for the Uruguay tournament, the coach said “The Flamingos is at the last stage of the qualifiers. We are hosting Cameroon on the 3rd of February. We have actually been preparing well because our first home and away matches against Ethiopia was not too good. It was not good at all. Personally as a coach I don’t think I have ever had a team that played that way but we assume that there are situations that warranted the bad game.
“The first leg in Ethiopia we had problems with the weather. At home, we were not okay. The performance was not okay. But I think that between that time and now, we have been able to transform the team. We have a team that can play and win. I do not doubt the qualifications because since they started the World Cup Under17 for women, Nigeria has not failed to be at the World Cup and it cannot be the first time. We will definitely be in the World Cup.
Speaking on why his girls found it difficult to score goals considering their barren draw in the return leg at home against Ethiopia in Benin, Edo State, the coach attributed their lackluster performance to lack of cohesion and team play among the players as they only got together for two weeks before the crackers.
“Well, it is not that they find it difficult to score goals. Like I told you, the team was just two weeks old before we played our first match. And as young ladies, there were still confusion because. Out of the whole players, only two persons have experienced U17 match in 2016. All others just came and they saw everything as being new. Even when you chose them to play, some of them were still imagining themselves as being in the national team. They were just admiring themselves from the outside. Definitely, whether we like it or not, all these will be counting against you as a first timer. But they are coming up now. If you witness our training in recent time, you will see that there is a total change.
In the last qualifier, we will play Cameroon in the first leg and travel to play them in the return leg. The first leg is on February 3rd while the second leg takes place two weeks later,” the coach said.
The Flamingos played 2-2 in their first leg last qualifying match against Cameroon on Saturday in Benin leaving the young ladies either with a win or a higher score draw to book their place in Uruguay later in the year.