The inaugural edition of West African Football Union (WAFU) Women’s Championship may have come and gone but as someone who witnessed the matches live in Abidjan, there are some crucial lessons I learnt from the tournament.
Ghana, like they did in the Men’s tournament on home soil last year won the Championship; beating arch rivals Nigeria and hosts Cote d’voire on their way to achieving glory.
Here are the four points I brought home from that tournament.
1.WAFU Cup not a bad experiment
The competition was a good work-out for the Super Falcons considering the fact that bulk of the players are U -20 players. The tournament has given them a competitive exposure in view of what to expect during their World Cup in France later in the year.
The tournament also gave the new coaching crew an opportunity to expect a tough Africa Women’s Cup of Nations (AWCON) later in the year. If a country like Mali that arrived few hours to kick off of their first match after they replaced Benin Republic in the competition could frustrate the Super Falcons till the 93rd minute before the Falcons could squeeze out a goal, it then means that no country should be underrated and I want to believe the coaching crew has taken note of that.
2. Thomas Dennerby means business:
When NFF President Amaju Pinnick promised women football followers in Nigeria that the Federation would name a “World class” coach for the Super Falcons, I was one of those that didn’t really take it serious because I have always had this belief that our local coaches are good and we have won all the winnable trophies excluding the World Cup with them.
I kept pondering on what exactly the “World class” coach was coming to do but I started getting answers to my questions in Abidjan when I arrived for the WAFU Cup. I met a workaholic coach in Thomas Dennerby, I met a coach with an intimidating C.V. I had a chat with Dennerby on his vision for the Super Falcons and he made it clear that he wants to build a team that Nigerians will be proud of.
I met a coach who despite the disappointment of not being able to honour the invitational tournament in Turkey is already looking forward to the friendly match against France in April. I saw a Dennerby who is willing and ready to work and I really hope he is given all the support and enabling environment to work because the only thing I assume will make him walk away is if he is not given the support he needs.
3. Five stand-out players for the Super Falcons in the tournament
a. Glory Ogbonna:
This is one player I think has won the heart of Dennerby. She was solid and consistent at the left back position throughout the competition and won the Woman of the Match award in the game against Togo, an award she dedicated to her mentor, the late Chinedu Udoji. Little wonder she is very strong and a no-nonsense type since she has a mentor like that.
She is one player I can advocate to join the “main” Falcons team even if it is for her to under study the senior players at first.
b. Anam Imo:
Imo may have scored just one goal in this tournament but her workrate for the team is commendable. Her partnership with Rasheedat Ajibade up front can be likened to a marriage made in heaven and the Under-20 World Cup in France will give us more opportunity to see this starlet in action.
c. Rasheedat Ajibade:
Ajibade as expected did not disappoint in this tournament. She scored three goals and was always out-running the opponents, causing havoc.
In Raseedat Ajibade, another Assisat Oshoala may have been born.
d. Uchendu Chinaza:
Chinaza is one of the underrated players for Falcons in this tournament. She played all five games – three as a substitute and two as a starter.
In the two matches she started, Uchendu dazzled and bullied the defenders of their opponents (Togo and Mali) and even scored in both matches. If there was any match that has sold the Rivers Angels star to the world, it was the 3rd place match against Mali.
It was no fluke that she was awarded the Woman of the Match in that game. The Falcons big guns will soon come but I believe Uchendu might have done enough to earn herself further invitations in the future.
d. Amarachi Okonkwo and the rest:
This Nasarawa Amazon is a skillful and talented player. Amarachi was another hidden talent from this tournament. She was a substitute in three of the team’s matches but her contributions whenever she was brought on the pitch was top notch.
She was a good asset to have as a super sub on the bench and showed some potentials which sets her up for a good future.
Finally, I must commend Joy Jegede for her leadership qualities on and off the pitch. Some leaders are born while some are made but in Jegede, I saw a truly born leader.
Goalkeeper Chiamaka Nnadozie and Mary Ologbosere were also very consistent in their performances and might just be ready to take over the Falcons after returning from the Under-20 World Cup.
4. Ghana must not be joked with.
If there is any country that Nigeria must pay special attention to as we prepare ahead of AWCON 2018, that country is Ghana.
Simply put: The team Ghana presented in this tournament was a delight to watch. Most of the players were from their U-20 squad as well and are very strong and energetic.
After Ghana defeated Nigeria in the semi final, their coach, a former Black Queens star Tagoe-Quarcoo boasted that Nigeria can never beat her country again.
This may look a little over the top but if we must go far in AWCON, we must work hard and prepare very well.
I again spoke with Tagoe-Quarcoo after her team won the competition and she told me how her Federation has lined up programs for the year for the Black Queens in order to keep them busy and prepared since they won’t be playing AWCON qualifiers as host.
I’m wondering what programmes our Federation have up drawn for the Super Falcons asides the friendly match against France in April and the qualifiers.
Finally, I want to appeal to the Technical Committee of the NFF to get the video clips of matches played during this competition especially those involving Ghana. It will do us good if we can get those clips to assist the coaching crew in opposition scouting.
By Faith Oluchi (@Trendyfaith on Twitter)