Nigeria have edged England with a 2-1 comeback win to top Group C, leaving the Europeans to head for home. Nigeria have a strong tradition of success at the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup and displayed their fortitude by coming from a goal down to secure this decisive win.
England opened in perfect fashion scoring in just the fifth minute as Hannah Blundell played a clever through ball for Nikita Parris, who took one touch and then clipped a shot past the advancing Nigeria goalkeeper Ibijoke Sangonuga from the edge of the box.
The African champions drew level in an even contest four minutes before the interval after Loveth Ayila beat her marker with a skilful drag-back and shot powerfully from 25 yards. Goalkeeper Lizzie Durack got a hand to it but was unable to prevent the ball hitting the back of the net.
England were saved from going further behind only by the width of the crossbar as Nigeria finished strongly in a match that ended amid joyous scenes on the Africans' bench.
Nigeria, who will feature in their fifth consecutive quarter-final, now tackle Group D runners-up New Zealand.
Peter Dedevbo, Nigeria coach
It was a fantastic match. We had problems in the first half with our defence and the English team kept my girls under a lot of pressure. But I knew my team would come back and they came back very well. I liked the character of my team today very much. We will now start right away to prepare for the quarter-finals.
Mo Marley, England coach
I think we started exceptionally well. Once we got the goal I think the girls kind of settled on that. It’s like the Mexican game were we backed up a bit and the team didn’t manage to push forward. Obviously the two penalties were the significant turning points. If you have an opportunity, you have to be clinical. But I think their equaliser was the big psychological turning point. After they equalised, you could see the body language of the players and how they reacted.