Shortly before the Nigerian girls left their hotel for the match at the Stade Guy-Piriou, Concarneau yesterday, Sports Minister, Solomon Dalung called the players to inform them of Federal Government’s approval of payment of all their camp allowances and match bonuses.
Dalung equally conveyed to Falconets team captain, Oluwakemi Famuditi, a warm greeting from President Mohammadu Buhari.
But all that motivation counted for nothing, as the Falconets, who were finalists in 2010 and 2014, failed to match Spain from the beginning of the match till the end.
The Europeans thus became the first team to book their spot in the semifinals after first-half goals from Aitana Bonmati and Patri Guijarro gave La Rojita a 2-1 victory.
The Christopher Danjuma-led Falconets barely escaped elimination in the group stage following an own goal by China.
On an overcast afternoon at the Stade Guy-Piriou in Concarneau yesterday, it was Spain that made their early advantage count by breaking the deadlock before the quarter-hour mark through captain Bonmati.
Her fine left-footed shot from the edge of the Nigeria box gave goalkeeper Chiamaka Nnadozie little chance as Nigeria fell behind.
Bonmati nearly had a second with a free-kick that struck the underside of the Nigerian crossbar and bounced away to safety, while Eva Navarro forced a point blank save from Nnadozie moments later.
Spain eventually doubled their lead before the break, with Guijarro scoring her fifth goal of France 2018 after getting on the end of Maite Oroz’s free-kick into the West African side’s box and scoring from close range.
Having struggled to create much in the first half, the Falconets responded with a goal just before the hour mark.
Peace Efih’s forward run saw her pick out Rasheedat Ajibabe on the left.
Her low shot forced a diving Catalina Coll to direct the ball into the path of an unmarked Efih, who duly converted into an empty Spanish goal.
Though they halved their deficit, Nigeria were unable to find an equaliser, as Spain saw out the remainder of the contest to reach the last four of this competition for the first time.