Desire Oparanozie’s goal in extra time has let the Falconets beat Mexico 1-0, to advance to the semi-finals of the on-going women’s Under-20 World Cup, after a grueling goalless of 90 minutes.
The Nigerian ladies dominated the first hour but were unable to breakthrough until Oparanozie’s header from Ugo Njoku’s, cross in the 109th minute at Tokyo’s National Stadium.
The Falconets, who were the runners-up at the 2010 tournament, will next face the winner of Friday’s quarterfinal between the United States and North Korea on Tuesday.
Mexico had a chance to take the lead, but Yamile Franco hit the crossbar with an angled free kick in the first period of extra time.
Host, Japan faces South Korea in the other last-eight match later on Thursday. Defending champion Germany takes on Norway in Friday’s quarterfinals.
The Falconets made much of the early running and appeared to have a crucial early goal, as Francisca Ordega’s shot deflected past goalkeeper Cecilia Santiago on the quarter-hour, only for the offside flag to be raised for an earlier infringement.
Almost immediately Oparanozie forced Santiago into a sprawling save as Nigeria looked to turn the screws in the late afternoon heat.
With far more possession in midfield Nigerias were inching their way closer to breaking the deadlock and Oparanozie rattled the crossbar with her shot eight minutes before the interval.
The always dangerous Sofia Huerta, scorer of three goals in the tournament, made a rare incursion into the Africans’ penalty area just before the break, to provide some impetus for the Mexicans.
However, the one-way traffic continued immediately upon the resumption, much to the delight of a large and buoyant group of Nigerian supporters, whose tunes and singing resonated around the National Stadium throughout the match.
Approaching the hour mark Santiago again thwarted the Africans with an important block from Gloria Ofoegbu’s effort, and then again a few minutes later from Oparanozie.
Mexico slowly started to make an impression and enjoyed a rare sight of goal midway through the second half, only for inspirational skipper Nayeli Rangel to push her back-post header narrowly over.
Nigeria’s midfield play became less cohesive and Mexico could have won it in injury time as a corner looped onto the crossbar.
A fairly disjointed period of extra time was enlivened only on a few occasions, notably by Mexico’s Yamile Franco hitting the bar with an angled free-kick.
With the match starting to swing back Mexico’s way, it was Nigeria who conjured a winner, with Oparanozie looping a perfectly executed header from Ugo Njoku’s cross over a stranded Santiago.