There were seven minutes remaining of Nigeria’s FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup Canada 2014 quarter-final with New Zealand on Sunday when Super Falconets’ coach Peter Dedevbo decided to freshen up his front line.
Though 2-0 up and well in control, the Africans had failed to trouble the Kiwi keeper for some time, prompting Dedevbo to look for someone to shake things up and cap his side’s impending win with a flourish. The player he turned to was the appropriately named Uchechi Sunday, and she did not disappoint.
As she explained in an interview with FIFA.com after the final whistle, the substitute made an instant impact. “I scored with my very first touch,” said the bubbly striker. “That’s football, though, isn’t it? Sometimes you play well and things don’t work out. But today I went out there and found the back of the net straightaway.”
Sunday did not finish there either. With the game moving into stoppage time, she struck again to complete a 4-1 win for Nigeria, who will now meet Korea DPR in the semi-finals.
Sunday’s brace showcased her innate finishing skills. Firing into the roof of the net from a corner to open her account, she then used her pace to score her second, bursting into the box with the ball at her feet, powering past a Kiwi defender and clipping the ball neatly over the keeper.
Laughing as he tried to describe her style of play, she said: “I suppose you could say I’m a goal specialist. I just try to get in the area so I can round moves off by putting the ball in the back of the net. That’s what I’m there for.”
This is not the first time Sunday has jumped off the bench to steal the show, as Sierra Leone’s U-20 side can confirm. Taking up the story, the smiling Sunday said: “We played them during the qualifiers for the World Cup and I came on in the second half in that game too. By the end of it I’d scored five goals.”
She finished the Canada 2014 qualifying competition as her side’s leading scorer with ten goals, nearly a third of the 31 they amassed in total, a figure made all the more impressive by the fact they did not concede once.
The striker has yet to start a game at the finals, however, and has found it hard so far to keep her nerves under control: “It’s impossible not to be nervous when you’re on the bench! It’s far worse than starting because you want to get out there and help your team-mates. And when they make a mistake you think: ‘Ahhhh. I would have done it this way or that way’. Sometimes, though, you just have to sit there and watch and cheer them on.
After her rapid double against New Zealand, is there a chance that Dedevbo might be tempted to give her a start against the North Koreans? Pondering that question, she replied: “I’m dreaming about that semi-final. I don’t know if I’ll start the game – that’s up to the coach – but I do know that no matter who plays, they will have to give their all because we want to be in the final.”
With that final falling on another Sunday, it is understandable why Nigeria’s super Sunday wants to be a part of it.