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FALCONETS STUN USA IN SHOOTOUT THRILLER

By NBF News

Falconets of Nigeria won a penalty shootout to claim a place in the semi-finals at the end of an enthralling struggle in Augsburg.

Ironically, it was USA's golden girl, Sydney Leroux, who missed with the US' fifth penalty to seal the African side's 4-2 victory as the US' Captain, Christine Nairn, also saw her attempt denied as well.

It was a notable triumph for the Falconets, who had never before reached quarter-finals in a FIFA womens competition and who had faltered at the last-eight stage on three previous occasions in the FIFA Under-20 Women's World Cup. Ndem Egan's team had been overrun in the second half but found its feet and plundered a magnificent equaliser through Helen Ukaonu later on.

The team now faces Colombia in Thursday's semi-final in Bielefeld as it has recorded what is a major surprise, shoving aside US, the two-time champion and the most successful team in the history of the competition.

US started confidently and it was clear newcomer, Casey Short, was going to enjoy some freedom down the left. In the sixth minute, Kristie Mewis invited her to run on to a through ball with her marker left standing. It was a great chance but Alaba Jonathan saved well with her legs. In the next instant, a free-kick high up the field rolled into the path of Mewis as the Nigerian defence slept. Fortunately, Amarachi Okoronkwo had read the danger and was back to cover.

It all proved a preamble to the inevitable USA goal. Again, it was poor defending that gave US a generous and spaciousroom to operate. When a corner was played to Mewis, she was able to run several metres with nobody challenging. When she squared the ball across, Amber Brooks was on hand to side-foot her first goal of the tournament.

Nothing had been seen of Nigeria's twin hot-shots, Ebere Orji and Desire Oparanozie though they did break out to land their first shot of the game with Cecilia Nku aiming high and wide. Normal service was quickly resumed as Zakiya Bywaters, operating down the right, moving infield before forcing two saves from the goalkeeper.

Nigeria did improve near the end of the first half but her efforts foundered on a rock known as Crystal Dunn, who twice came in with well-timed and determined challenges. The second half proved a reversal of what had gone on before with Nigeria now finding some confidence and taking control of the game. Oparanozie worried Bianca Henninger momentarily from distance but the goalkeeper pulled off a good save high up by the left-hand post.