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Nigeria's Chidinma Okeke: I never knew my Women's World Cup chance will come this early

20:34 EAT 15/06/2019
Chidinma Okeke - Nigeria women
The Super Falcons claimed their first win against South Korea and the full-back played a vital role in last Wednesday's triumph

Chidinma Okeke is excited about what she can achieve in her career, but admits that she never expected to be at a senior Women's World Cup this early with Nigeria.

Prior to the tournament, Okeke had previously represented Nigeria at the U17 and U20 Women's World Cup, including a fine display in France last year, where they crashed out of the Round of 16.

The FC Robo youngster was rewarded with a invitation to the Super Falcons' fold for the 2018 Africa Women's Cup of Nations in Ghana, but her efforts weren't enough to earn her a spot in the final squad.

In April, Okeke was named in a 27-player Women's World Cup provisional squad and she was excellent as the Super Falcons claimed the Wafu Women's Cup title in Cote d'Ivoire.

At Stade des Alpes, she starred on her starting debut, as her well-struck assist was key in the Super Falcons 2-0 triumph over South Korea in a Women's World Cup match on Wednesday.

After featuring in two games in France, the 18-year-old, who was previously a forward explained her struggle to cope with life as a defender on the world stage.

"I always had dreams of playing with the senior nation's team at the Women's World Cup," Okeke told Goal.

"But I never knew the chance will come this early for me. Honestly, I never expected it. I am grateful to God and the coaches for this huge chance to showcase myself.

"A lot of people that know me at my club [FC Robo] knew I play often as an attacker. But my coach [Emmanuel Osahon] has always tried to play me in different positions in league matches.

"With that, I had no problem adapting when I was asked to play in that position by our U20 coach [Christopher Danjuma] at the U20 Women's World Cup last year in France.

"So, when I was called for the WAFU Cup, I was really excited but still did not expect I could make the final squad for the Women's World Cup with the calibre of defenders in the team.

"It's a dream come true for me and I want to keep working hard to improve with every game when called upon to play by the coach."

The African champions were beaten 3-0 by 1995 champions Norway in their opener in Reims, but a first-half own-goal against South Korea awoke their knockout stage hopes.

Okeke managed to edge her marker and smartly set up Asisat Oshoala to make a brilliant finish against the Asians, as Nigeria secured their fourth win in the history at the showpiece. 

The defender admits that she was nervous at the start before calming down as the match progressed, and is upbeat about their chances against France.

"For the assist, initially I was very anxious during the game but we've been doing it in training and the coach had instructed me to always try to implement what we've been doing on the pitch," Okeke continued.

"It helped me to be calm and immediately I saw the space and knew she could score, I did not hesitate to put the pass across to her [Oshoala]. I am happy to have made my contribution to the team's victory.

"The win against South Korea has given us a lot of confidence. I believe strongly in this team and I'm confident we are going to give a good fight against France."

A win or draw against Les Bleues in Rennes will be enough to guarantee Nigeria's passage to the knockout stages, having garnered three points from two games.