Nigeria beat Germany 3-2 on penalties to finish third in the 2022 U-17 Women’s FIFA World Cup, at the D. Y. Patil Stadium in Navi Mumbai on Sunday.
Two missed penalties by Germany’s Paulina Platner and Loreen Bender and a save by goalkeeper Omilana Faith off Paulina Bartz’s shot saw the Flamingoes return home with their first-ever medal in the U-17 Women’s World Cup.
Just when three goals from Nigeria’s Ajakaye Opeyemi, Amina Bello and Edidiong Etim looked to have sealed the fate of the match, Germany scripted an amazing comeback – with two quickfire goals in the last four minutes of regulation time – to force the match into penalties.
Germany, despite scoring the highest number of goals in the tournament(16) – ended fourth – its best-ever performance in the tournament since 2012.
Germany had the first chance to break the deadlock courtesy of a brilliant run by Laura Gloning in the fourth minute – from Germany’s half into the final third of Nigeria. Gloning delivered a low cross from the right for Marie Steiner to steer it into the net.
However, after a VAR check, the goal was ruled out as Mara Alber was found to have fouled Nigeria goalkeeper Omilana Faith just before Steiner’s kick.
In the 20th minute, the Flamingoes decided to attack against the run of play when World Cup debutant Okenwa Chidera- one of the three changes in the starting lineup – delivered a piercing through ball through the right flank for Opeyemi.
The forward, making a run behind the German defence, got the ball, cut to her left, beat her marker Jella Veit and then tried to chip it over goalie Eva Boettcher.
Eva – returning to the playing XI after recovering from COVID-19, did get a touch, but it wasn't enough to keep the ball out of the net.
When the two sides had met previously in the tournament, the score was 1-0 to Nigeria at half-time. German head coach Friederike Kromp had seen her side change gears and win that match with two goals in the second half.
As the match went into the last 45 minutes, Kromp brought on all its forwards on the bench – Melina Krueger, Loreen Bender and Paulina Bartz – looking for similar redemption, which eventually arrived.
Three minutes into the second half, Miracle Usani’s cross was headed into the goal by Amina Bello, while Edidiong Etim – coming on as a substitute – ended the competition with a right-footed volley, minutes after the hour mark.
It was then that the German comeback began.
Jella Veit, Germany’s captain – who had seen Opeyemi beat her to open the scoring for Nigeria – was at the heart of the first two goals by Germany.
She scored from a Mara Alber free kick in the 73rd minute.
Ten minutes later, Veit delivered a crucial pass to Laila Portella in the Nigerian penalty box, who then passed it to Bartz as the German No. 17 netted, reducing the margin of goals to just one.
In the last minute of regulation time, Bartz’s shot ricocheted off the bar, and Bender slotted it in with a bicycle kick.
The score, miraculously, was 3-3 at the end of regulation time.
In the spot-kicks, Nigeria's third in the tournament so far, it scored all but one of its four penalties, with Etim, Opeyemi and Blessing Sunday all finding the net.
However, Bender and Bartz saw their spot-kicks miss the goal as the Germans finished second-best against the high-flying Flamingoes.
Match result: Nigeria 3 (Opeyemi 20’, Bello 48’, Etim 63’) bt Germany 3 (Veit 73’, Bartz 84’, Bender 90’) 3-2 on penalties