Reigning African Champions the Super Falcons of Nigeria were on Saturday eliminated by two-time World Champions, Germany at the ongoing FIFA Women’s World Cup (FIFAWWC) following a 3-0 loss to the Germans.
Although Nigeria made it out of the group stage for the first time in 20 years and only the second time in history despite making it to all eight FIFAWWC finals, the overall performance was one that left a bad taste in the mouth of many.
After watching a disjointed Super Falcons record just one victory and three losses in four games there sure were positives and negatives but many would agree that the negatives far out weigh the positives hence, the disappointment expressed by fans following the exit of Africa’s most successful female team.
Talking about the negatives, there were three characteristic features of every game played by Nigeria’s Super Falcons at the 2019 FIFAWWC: Inability of the players to string passes together, giving possession away cheaply and clearing the ball up field to no one in particular. This was the hallmark of Thomas Dennerby’s Super Falcons in France.
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The players found it difficult to string passes together between themselves or even play out from the back hence, inviting more pressure to the defence which always had to bulge at some point.
Some would say that these current Falcons do not have the quality to play out from the back especially when put under pressure by their opponents but that in itself is very debatable.
Meanwhile let’s assume that is the case and that is the reason the coach opted to counter attack the problem is: for a team that decided to play on the counter it is expected that you should atleast have a clear cut tactic or plan on the positioning of the players and how to move or work the ball forward to the attackers in order to get goals but that wasn’t the case. All we saw was a Super Falcons team that just cleared the ball up field to no one in particular on uncountable occasions.
In plain terms, being defensively compact and knowing what to do in attacking positions are not mutually exclusive and the Super Falcons didn’t show mastery of the latter in most cases in France.
Another baffling observation was the fact that the Super Falcons always played a little better after conceding or going ahead as in the case of the Korea game. They held on to the ball and moved it around a bit more while creating a few chances too but that always came after they felt there was nothing more to lose. This then makes one wonder why the team had to be over conservative and not try to play their game in the first place.
That said players like Chiamaka Nnadozie, Chidinma Okeke and Rasheedat Ajibade all teenagers and Nigeria based players except for Ajibade who moved to Norway in December following an impressive outing at the 2018 Africa Women’s Cup of Nations (AWCON), continue to reiterate the fact that irrespective of where you play (home or abroad) Nigeria is filled with talents.
Nnadozie was introduced in goal for her World Cup debut in a must win game and the 18 year-old didn’t disappoint; handling the ball assuredly and commanding her area quite well. Same goes for Chidinma Okeke who replaced the injured Faith Ikidi at right back. Also making her debut on the global stage she was composed and dealt with threats from the opponents quite well capping her performance with a brilliant assist for Asisat Oshoala against Korea.
Ajibade was another debutant who really never got her chance until the second half of the knockout tie against Germany. A game which was as good as over but she still left her mark nonetheless creating the best chance of the Super Falcons’ campaign in France.
That is not to say that the senior players didn’t impress, far from it! Asides a few errors Onome Ebi, Osinachi Ohale and Ngozi Ebere did their job as usual but you can only do as much when there is constant pressure on the defence. Rita Chikwelu was the most creative outlet in the middle of the park and Francisca Ordega ofcourse impressed especially with her defending perhaps that explains why she didn’t do much going forward. Infact, the focus on defending was too much!!!
The best news coming out of France has to be that of the young players who refused to be intimidated by the big stage and big players they faced. They took their chances and left their mark where it matters most – the FIFAWWC. That is something Nigeria can definitely build on especially with some core members of this current squad looking like they may have played their last World Cup tournament.
While rebuilding might be on the agenda, the countdown for the 2023 FIFAWWC for the Super Falcons has begun and the earlier Nigeria gets back to work the better. The talent is available but Nigeria needs to get down to the fine details of the game; concentrating and running a more consistent, competitive and well organised female league while also working and improving on the technical and tactical aspect of the game.