FIFAWWC Preview: 20 years on… It’s time Super Falcons!

FIFAWWC Preview: 20 years on… It’s time Super Falcons!

Despite their undisputed dominance on the continent the Super Falcons of Nigeria are yet to make a real statement at the FIFA Women’s World Cup (FIFAWWC) that will see them emerge to a force to reckon with in women’s football.

Despite qualifying for every edition of the FIFAWWC, the African Champions have been underachievers at the tournament with their only achievement being qualification from the group stage to the knockout phase in 1999.

How They Qualified

The Super Falcons of Nigeria began their journey to qualification for the 8th edition of the FIFAWWC in the worst possible fashion losing their opening match of the 2018 Africa Women’s Cup of Nations (AWCON) by a lone goal to South Africa.

Many would say the defeat was a wake-up call to the Falcons who themselves were disappointed after the blast of the final whistle. The African Champions would then pick themselves up in the second game with a convincing 4-0 victory over Zambia.

Nigeria then went on to dismantle Equatorial Guinea 6-0 to qualify for the semi-final where they overcame the Indomitable Lionesses of Cameroon on penalties thanks to a crucial stop by Tochukwu Oluehi in goal to send Nigeria to the final of the 2018 AWCON and also qualify as one of the three African teams to participate in the 2019 FIFAWWC in France.

Greatest Achievements

The Super Falcons of Nigeria are undisputed Champions in Africa having won eleven of thirteen AWCON tournaments.

20 years ago, Nigeria achieved her best feat at the FIFAWWC qualifying from the group stage of the 16 nation tournament in 1999 straight into the quarter-final where they lost 4-3 to Brazil in extra-time.

The reigning African Champions also remain the only African side to have qualified for every edition of the FIFAWWC and one of seven countries in the whole world to have managed this.

Head Coach

Thomas Dennerby (Left) was appointed Head coach of the Super Falcons of Nigeria in January, 2018 and since then he’s qualified the team for AWCON and won it; qualified Nigeria for the 2019 FIFAWWC and also won the 2019 WAFU Cup.

But before taking charge of the Super Falcons, the 59 year-old Swede won the male and female top flight leagues with Hammarby IF and Djurgardens while in Sweden.

He then moved on to the Swedish Women’s National team in 2007 but failed to make it out of the group stage. Dennerby built on that and in 2011 he took the team to a third place finish at the World Cup.

Star player(s)

Although Nigeria is not a one man team there is absolutely no doubt that if the Super Falcons will have a good outing in France Barcelona forward, Asisat Oshoala will be key to that.

Having played and still playing at the top level, Oshoala fears no foe once she steps on to a football pitch. Her trickery, pace, power, technique and eye for goal are qualities that make her dangerous. Going by her goalscoring feat in Barcelona since the beginning of the year there is absolutely no doubt that Oshoala is in the mood and in good form ahead of the World Cup.

Just like her compatriot, Francisca Ordega is fast, tricky, strong, has a good technique and an eye for goal. She alongside Oshoala on the wings will be a problem for any defence.

Midfield maestro, Ngozi Okobi will be tasked with providing defence splitting passes to the forwards. Okobi’s ability to read the game, take on opponents and provide a killer pass is quite brilliant. Having played with the forwards for years and developed a good understanding with them she will be another player to watch out for.

The game of football is about finding the right balance between attack and defence. Onome Ebi will be that player in defence – to organise the back line and make sure every ball is intercepted. Ebi has aged quite well and at 35, asides being a rock in defence she remains a threat in set piece situations.

An added advantage to the Super Falcons team is that the star players have a lot of experience and understanding between them. They have also all been at atleast two to three World Cup tournaments together so they are no rookies to playing on the big stage.

Finally with players like Rasheedat Ajibade, Uchenna Kanu, Chiwendu Ihezuo, Chinaza Uchendu Nigeria might just have a surprise element the World is probably unaware of.

Expectations

The mandate for France 2019 is simple and clear: It’s time to match the 1999 quarter-final feat or even do one better by making the semi-final.

Nigerians believe this is possible so the girls and the coaching crew also have to believe it is achievable. They would however have to take it one game at a time – Norway, Korea Republic and France to give themselves any chance of that highly coveted quarter-final berth.

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