USA Falls to Nigeria on Penalty Kicks at U-20 Women's World Cup

July 25, 2010

Story courtesy of U.S. Soccer

AUGSBURG, Germany - The U.S. Under-20 Women's National Team fell to Nigeria on penalty kicks, 4-2, following a highly entertaining 1-1 tie in regulation and overtime during the quarterfinals of the 2010 FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup.

Nigeria made all four of its kicks while Christine Nairn's first attempt for the USA was saved and Sydney Leroux fired the USA's fourth attempt over the top. Those misses were sandwiched around finishes from Mollie Pathman and Kristie Mewis.

The shootout featured some controversy as U.S. goalkeeper Bianca Henninger twice saved the shots of Esther Sunday who was shooting third for her country. Henninger batted the first one away with a dive to her left, but referee Alexandra Ihringova ruled that the U.S. `keeper had come off the goal line prematurely. Henninger then pulled off a spectacular save on Sunday's second shot with a fully extended dive to her left, but once again Ihringova said she had broken the rules and called back Sunday, who was halfway to midfield, to take the kick again. On her third attempt, Sunday stuck her penalty into the left corner.

Nigeria shot first and captain Joy Jegede wrong-footed Henninger to push the ball into the net. The shootout then started poorly for the USA as Nairn struck her shot hard, but much too close to Nigeria goalkeeper Alaba Jonathan, who just had to collapse dive to her right to push the ball away.

Helen Ukaonu, who scored Nigeria's lone goal during regulation on a spectacular free-kick, then buried her chance into the left corner. Substitute Mollie Pathman then coolly spun her shot into the left corner.

Then came the wild series of saves from Henninger that eventually ended with Sunday scoring. Mewis then rifled her shot into the upper left corner with a superbly taken spot kick to make it 3-2 for Nigeria after three kicks each.

Desire Oparanozie answered back with a perfect penalty of her own, stuffing the ball into the upper right corner. The USA needed to convert to send Nigeria to its fifth kicker, but Leroux blasted her shot straight over the goal. Penalty kicks have not been kind to the Americans in the U-20 FIFA Women's World Cup as the USA also fell on penalty kicks in the both semifinal and third-place match during the 2006 tournament.

The United States dominated a first half in which midfielder Amber Brooks scored her first goal of the World Cup just nine minutes into the game. The score came as the U.S. caught Nigeria napping on a corner kick from the left side. Zakiya Bywaters took it short to Mewis, and with the Nigeria defenders standing in the penalty area, she dribbled toward the edge of the six yard box and played a short square pass to the crashing Brooks, who re-directed the ball into the net under the charging goalkeeper.

The USA fired 16 shots in the first half to Nigeria's four and racked up seven corner kicks to Nigeria's one, but despite numerous chances, could not find another goal to put the match away.

In just the seventh minute, midfielder Casey Short got behind the Nigeria defense in the left side of the penalty box after a great pass from Mewis, but with only the goalkeeper to beat, she hit her shot right at the `keeper from the top of the six yard box.

Seconds later, the USA played in a free kick from deep on the left wing that skidded along the ground to Mewis, but she couldn't get a good piece of the ball and scuffed it toward the net where it hit a Nigerian defender and was cleared.

In the 19th minute Leroux was fouled at the top of penalty box, but Nairn's direct kick from 19 yards hit the wall. The Nigeria center backs did a good job of putting a body on Leroux at all times. Leroux ran extremely hard for 120 minutes, but couldn't get free of the athletic Nigerian defenders. She ends her U-20 Women's World Cup career as the USA's leading scorer in the tournament with 10 goals scored over 2008 and 2010.

In the 21st minute, a spinning free-kick from Rachel Quon on the left wing was spilled by Jonathan, but the USA couldn't get a strike on the loose ball after it came off the goalkeeper's chest.

Nigeria did have some nice midfield possession in the first half, but its attack consisted mostly of long balls over the top of the U.S defense that were well-won by center backs Crystal Dunn and Toni Pressley, who both played excellent matches over the 120 minutes.

Leroux almost got free in the 35th minute, but with a defender on her hip she cranked a shot right at Jonathan from the top of the penalty box.

Nigeria's only shot on goal of the first half came in the 38th minute, but it was from at least 30 yards out and easily saved by Henninger.

The second half was entirely different as the Nigerians turned up the energy and after hitting just four shots before the break, fired almost 20 in the second 45 minutes.

It took 51 minutes for Nigeria to create a good chance on goal, but from then on to the end of regulation, the Africans surely looked the more dangerous team. In the 51st minute Ebere Orji ran onto a long ball over the top and hit a looping shot that might have gone into the upper right corner had Henninger not leaped to touch it away for a corner kick.

In the 55th, another long ball over the top bounced dangerously in the U.S. penalty box and Orji blocked a U.S. clearance back towards the net. Henninger had has to scramble back and hop on ball, although it likely was going just wide.

In the 76th minute, Sunday hit a shot from distance that Henninger had to push wide with a dive to her left. While the USA was defending with valor, it seemed like a Nigeria's goal was coming and when it did arrive, it was off a set play.

The match saw four yellow cards issued to the Africans, who also were whistled for 26 fouls to just five on the United States, but one of those free kicks led to Nigeria's goal.

In the 79th minute, Nigeria free kick was just over 30 yards from the U.S. goal and shaded a bit to the left. A Nigerian player took a very short touch on the ball for Ukaonu to shoot and she blasted a world class strike just past the U.S. runners and just inside the right post, giving Henninger no chance.

The USA was on its heels a bit for the last 10 minutes, but did manage a dangerous free kick in the 83rd minute that bounced around the Nigeria goal mouth before being scrambled away for a corner kick.

In the 88th minute, a scrappy play from Orji won a ball in the penalty area and the Americans had to scramble it away for a corner kick. Then Ukaonu hit another blast in stoppage time from the run of play, but this one flew over the goal.

Each team had its chances during the 30-minute overtime period. In the 94th minute, Pathman went in hard on a tackle with Jonathan at top of box, but the ball hit off Pathman and rolled over end line.

In the 98th minute a fantastic swerving dribbling run from Sunday into the left side of the box beat several U.S. defenders, but she hit her shot to the near post where Henninger saved easily.

With both teams tired, the game got stretched out in overtime and both sides had golden chances to get a winning goal. For Nigeria it was Oparanozie who won a bouncing ball from Pressley in the 101st minute, touched it past Dunn (perhaps the only time in the game she was beaten) and with only Henninger to beat, shot wide right.

The USA had its best chance of the first overtime when substitute Maya Hayes beat two players into the right side of the box and dribbled straight at the near post, but couldn't find a U.S. attacker with a slip pass in a crowded penalty area.

The USA best chance to win the game came in the 112th minute when substitute Meg Morris had a one-on-one chance in the right side of the penalty box, but once again a U.S. player shot right at Jonathan. Nigeria actually countered off the miss and got a dangerous chance at the other end.

One minute later, Mewis hit a shot that crashed off the middle of the crossbar and a minute after that, a header from Brooks off a corner kick was just pushed over the bar by Jonathan.

The USA racked up 16 corner kicks and with Nigeria's 26 fouls, had plenty of chances to flight balls into the box, but the young Americans could not convert another set play. With the Americans unable to find a winner, the match went to penalty kicks, where the USA exited the tournament in the cruelest way.

U.S. U-20 Women's National Team Match Report

Match: U.S. U-20 Women's National Team vs. Nigeria U-20 Women's National Team
Date: July 25, 2010
Competition: 2010 FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup - Quarterfinal
Venue: FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup Stadium; Augsburg Germany
Kickoff: 11:30 a.m. Local (5:30 a.m. ET)
Attendance: 7,135
Weather: 68 degrees; Partly cloudy, cool

Scoring Summary:
USA - Amber Brooks (Kristie Mewis) 9
NGA - Helen Ukaonu 79

Penalty Kick Summary:
NGA: Jegede (goal), Ukaonu (goal), Sunday (goal), Oparanozie (goal)
USA: Nairn (saved), Pathman (goal), K. Mewis (goal), Leroux (high)

USA: 1-Bianca Henninger; 3-Rachel Quon, 2-Toni Pressley, 4-Crystal Dunn, 5-Kendall Johnson; 17-Casey Short (13-Mollie Pathman, 66), 20-Amber Brooks, 11-Christine Nairn (capt.), 12-Zakiya Bywaters (16-Maya Hayes, 70, 14-Meg Morris, 106); 9-Kristie Mewis, 19-Sydney Leroux
Subs not used: 6-Vicki DiMartino, 7-Courtney Verloo, 8-Samantha Mewis, 10-Teresa Noyola, 15-Jenna Richmond, 18-Adrianna Franch, 21-Bryane Heaberlin
Head Coach: Jillian Ellis

NGA: 1-Alaba Jonathan; 15-Joy Jegede (capt.), 17-Helen Ukaonu, 20-Osinachi Ohale, 5-Cecilia Nku, 10-Rebecca Kalu, 11-Glory Iroka, 8-Ebere Orji (13-Ngozi Ebere, 114), 9-Desire Oparanozie, 16-Amarachi Okoronkwo (7-Esther Sunday, 68), 18-Charity Adule
Subs not used: 2-Blessing Edoho, 3-Gloria Ofoegbu, 4-Martina Ohadugha, 6-Esther Michael, 12-Rabi Ihiabe, 14-Soo Adekwagh, 19-Uchechi Sunday, 21-Marbel Egwuenu
Head Coach: Ndem Egan

Statistical Summary: USA / NGA
Shots: 24 / 31
Shots on Goal: 15 / 13
Saves: 14 / 11
Corner Kicks: 16 / 7
Fouls: 5 / 26
Offside: 1 / 0

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