By Oyediji Oluwaseun Babatunde
Sports Writer, kick442.com Nigeria
Super Falcons of Nigeria was one of the most entertaining side at USA 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup (third edition of the tournament after 1991 and 1995) with their fighting spirit and cheer determination.
After becoming the first African side to win a world cup match as well as making it to the quarter final for the first time at the World Cup, their next opponent was Brazil.
On July 1, 1999, at Jack Kent Cooke Stadium, Brazil beat Nigeria 4-3 in extra time after an incredible Nigeria comeback. The game was the first in FIFA Women’s World Cup history to be decided by a golden goal in extra time.
The Brazilians dominated the first half, as their star Sissi assisted the first two goals scored by Cidanha. Nene scored the third goal, as Nigeria’s goalkeeper let her long-distance shot slip through her hands (and was promptly subbed out before halftime).
However, the Brazilians came out weakly in the second half, as if they had already won and the Nigerians took advantage, dictating play and dominating the game. Three separate Nigerian players scored in the second half to even the score and send the game to extra time.
Nigeria substituted goalkeeper Ann Chiejine for Judith Chime and began pressing its attackers early in the second half. The Super Eagles scored their first goal in the 63rd minute, Prisca Emeafu taking advantage of a defensive mistake and added a second through Nkiru Okosieme’s shot off a rebound in the 72nd minute. Nkechi Egbe scored the equalizing goal for Nigeria in the 85th minute with a far-post strike from 14 yards (13 m). The goal forced sudden death extra time, which Nigeria would play with only 10 players after forward Patience Avre was ejected in the 87th minute for receiving a second yellow card. Brazilian midfielder Sissi, who had assisted two of the first-half goals, scored the golden goal from 22 yards (20 m) in the 104th minute to win the match 4–3 for Brazil.
Former African Footballer of the year, Mercy Akide in an interview with the media team of Federation of International Football Association (FIFA) shared what Coach Ismaila Mabo told them during half time which gingered them to come out fighting in the second half.
“The coach told us we had to play for Nigeria, and our families and our names and ourselves,” Akide said. “If we wanted the world to recognise us, this was the game.”
For the exhausted Falcons it was still mission accomplished Akide believed: “We went back out and just played. We didn’t care about the goals. We wanted to redeem ourselves and we did that, even though it ended with that free kick. It was sudden death then, so we had to accept that, but we were very happy. We were very proud of ourselves.
“That game was one of the best I was ever a part of for the national team because to come back from three down showed that we had something inside us. It showed that we were a team, and that we could really play.”
Nigeria lost the game while Brazil progressed to the semi-final but the fighting spirit of the Falcons showed that the team had inner strength and exhibited the power of an African Woman.
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