Falconets World Cup Preparations Halted Ahead of Burkina Faso’s Clash

Earlier this month, the Nigeria Football Federation named its U20 women’s football team (The Falconets) squad for the upcoming 2020 FIFA U20 Women’s World Cup qualifying games against  Burkina Faso.

The two-legged qualifying contest was scheduled to be held during the last week of  March. However, it has now been postponed due to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic.

The first leg of the game was due to be held at the August 4 Stadium in Ouagadougou on Saturday, 21 March, with the follow up in Lagos the next week. Like so many sporting events, the COVID-19 outbreak has forced a postponement.

Women’s football has always been important in Nigeria, where The Falconets have consistently performed well at international tournaments.

This increasing popularity is moving alongside the growth of sports betting sites in Nigeria, which give fans a way to bet on all the football action in the country.

In terms of the 2020 FIFA U20 Women’s World Cup, it is possibly one major sporting event that is not currently under major threat from the pandemic. The tournament will not be held until August, which many predict will be after the peak spread of the disease.

That said, the qualifying for the tournament has been impacted.  Nigeria’s U20 women’s football team will now have to play its qualifier against Burkina Faso at a later date.

In fact, the remainder of the qualifying tournament play-offs will need to be rescheduled.  When that happens will depend on the ongoing spread of COVID-19.

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If the virus does not peak until May or June, as predicted, the qualifiers may have to wait until July to be completed, a month before the World Cup.

Another option is the qualifiers are held in May or June behind closed doors. Not having fans in the stadiums will be a blow for Nigerian fans but it could allow the play-offs to be completed.

The Falconets had been preparing for the doubleheader against Burkina Faso in the Federal Capital  Territory, Abuja when the postponement was announced.

Still, Nigeria will be hoping the 2020 FIFA U20 Women’s World Cup qualifications will be able to progress soon.

The Falconets remain amongst the favourites to qualify for the tournament, which is still scheduled to be held in Costa Rica and Panama during August.

Nigeria has a rich history at the U20 Women’s World Cup. The country has finished runner-up at the tournament twice.

Germany defeated the Falconets in two finals, in 2010 and 2014. If Nigeria reaches the 2020 tournament, it will meet the following nations that have already punched their ticket: North Korea, South Korea, Japan, Costa Rica, Panama, United States, Mexico, New Zealand,  Germany, France, Spain, Netherlands.

The squad announced earlier this month to face Burkina Faso gives a good idea of which players will represent Nigeria at the U20 Women’s World Cup later in the summer:

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Goalkeepers: Rita Akarekor (Bayelsa Queens); Christiana Obia (Osun Babes); Chiamaka Nnadozie (Paris FC, France); Omini Oyono (Confluence Queens); Christy Obis (Osun Babes); Nelly Ekeh (Bayelsa Queens)

Defenders: Omowunmi Oshobukola (Sunshine Queens); Chdinma Okeke (Madrid CFF, Spain); Esther Momoh (Confluence Queens); Ifeoma Ikenokwalu (Rivers Angels); Sarah Oloduba (Osun Babes); Margaret Etim (Rivers Angels); Akudo Ogbonna (Sunshine Queens); Ifeoma Paulinus (Rivers Angels); Rebecca Ajimuda (Edo Queens); Tosin Dameline (Sunshine Queens)

Midfielders: Mary Saiki (Nasarawa Amazons); Basirat Amoo (Confluence Queens); Folasade Ijamilusi (FC Robo); Adebisi Saheed (Bayelsa Queens); Esther Onyenezide (FC Robo); Rose Ekong (Sunshine Queens); Mary Adeyemi (Osun Babes); Suliat Abideen (Sunshine Queens); Celine Ottah (Bayelsa Queens); Patricia Innocent (Sunshine Queens)

Forwards: Dooshima Tarnum (Nasarawa Amazons); Grace Igboamalu (Nasarawa Amazons); Precious Christopher; Rafiat Sule; Gift Monday (FC Robo); Mary Anjor (Bayelsa Queens); Esther Adeboye; Blessing Okpe (Rivers Angels); Augusta Nwamaka (Confluence Queens); Marian Ezenagu (Rivers Angels); Mary Alfred (Confluence Queens); Precious Vincent (Sunshine Queens); Joy Omewa (Confluence Queens); Joy Jerry (Bayelsa Queens).