Junior Football Ferns outclassed by Nigeria
The history-making Junior Football Ferns have met their match in Moncton, outclassed 4-1 by Nigeria after a nightmare start in the quarterfinals of the under-20 women's World Cup.
The Ferns were the first New Zealand women's team to qualify for the knockout stages of a World Cup and were bidding to become the first Kiwi side - men's or women's - to reach the giddy heights of the semifinals.
Coach Aaron McFarland had done plenty of homework on the pace and power of the Group C winners, but it took just 30 seconds for his best-laid plans to fly out the window on Canada's east coast.
The relaxed Nigerians were singing and dancing in the tunnel before the game while the nervy New Zealanders were rocked as they conceded the second fastest goal in the tournament's history.
The outstanding Asisat Oshoala did the damage, as the tallest player on the pitch easily outjumped the Kiwi defence to head in a cross from Ugo Njoku.
Either goalkeeper Lily Alfeld or a defender needed to contest, but instead they stood and watched as the Nigerians celebrated with a merry jig.
Oshoala's team-mate, Courtney Dike, had scored the fastest goal in tournament history, taking just 18 seconds to bulge the net against Korea in group play.
It got worse in the 12th minute as Oshoala capitalised on a 10-woman New Zealand to score her second, and effectively kill the contest.
Meikayla Moore could only watch in horror from the sidelines as the Kiwi centre-back received treatment on an injury.
Oshoala ruthlessly took advantage of Moore's absence, showing searing speed to burst onto a through ball behind Emily Jensen before finishing with a composed right foot poke past Alfeld for 2-0.
Moore returned to the fray shortly after, but the horse had bolted as the Ferns struggled to build meaningful attacks.
It took 54 minutes for Nigeria goalkeeper Sandra Chiichii to make a real save, when forced to stop a header from Wellington's Emma Rolston.
New Zealand were more competitive in the second half, but Nigeria ended any faint hopes of a comeback when substitute Uchechi Sunday scored in the 84th minute as the Kiwis failed to deal with a corner.
Rolston scored an 89th minute consolation goal with a quality header, but Sunday quelled those celebrations with her second just a minute later.
There were Kiwi tears at fulltime, but the loss was certainly no disgrace: Nigeria had also reached the semifinals of the last two under-20 tournaments.