Nigeria Suspension on the Eve of the U-20 Women’s World Cup

The FIFA Emergency Committee has suspended the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) following government interference in the leadership of the association. Although the suspension effects all of the Nigerian national teams, the most immediate impact will be felt on the women’s side. If the suspension is not lifted by July 15, 2014, Nigeria will be unable to compete in the 2014 U-20 Women’s World Cup in Canada.

Nigerian coaches had already begun voicing their concerns over the Falconets’ chances at the World Cup earlier this week, prior to the suspension, citing lack of funding and technical support from the NFF. Even so, Nigeria is seen as the heavy-weight in a competitive Group C in 2014, joined by Korea Republic, Mexico and England. The Nigerians are currently slated to open the tournament August 6 against Mexico in Moncton, New Brunswick.

Nigeria is one of only four nations to have qualified for a seventh consecutive U-20 Women’s World Cup – with the other three being Germany, Brazil and the USA. The Falconets stand in fifth place in FIFA’s all-time ranking at this age level and have advanced from the group stage each tournament since 2004. In recent years they have recorded two top four finishes, taking fourth place in the 2012 edition and storming to a second place finish in 2010 after upsetting the Americans in the quarterfinals.

Nigeria and fellow CAF representative Ghana qualified for the tournament in January 2014. In the third round of the CAF qualifying tournament, Nigeria defeated South Africa 6-0 at home and 1-0 on the road. Ghana fell 0-1 to Equatorial Guinea on the road but won 1-0 at home, leading to a decisive penalty kick shootout, which the Ghanaians won, 4-3. If the NFF is unable to resolve its affairs by July 15, presumably South Africa or Equatorial Guinea would be called upon to replace Nigeria in Canada.

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