The most successful women’s national football team in Africa, the Super Falcons of Nigeria have expressed readiness to win their 9th title at the Africa Women Cup of Nations in Ghana, AWCON 2018.
The Falcons who are in group B along with South Africa, Zambia and Equatorial Guinea will kick-start their campaign tomorrow against the Bayana Bayana of South Africa in Cape Coast.
They are aiming for a convincing start before heading into the remaining group matches against Zambia on November 21 and Equatorial Guinea on November 24.
The defending champions have won all but two of the past ten editions of the tournament which started in1998. They were champions in 1998, 2000, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2010, 2014 and 2016.
Equatorial Guinea momentarily breached Super Falcons continental dominance when they won their two titles in 2008 and 2012.
However, after the Falcons reclaimed their number one position in 2010 in South Africa, they haven’t looked back.
Although South Africa, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea and Zambia will certainly test their credentials, the Falcons are highly favoured to soar above all opponents in Ghana.
Such optimism is not unfounded because apart from their 8th AWCON titles, the Super Falcons have been to three Olympic Games in 2000, 2004 and 2008. They have also won two All Africa Games titles in 2003 when Nigeria hosted the continental games and in 2007 in Algiers.
In addition, they are miles ahead of their contemporaries in terms of appearances at the FIFA Women’s World Cup. The Super Falcons have made seven World Cup appearances beginning from 1991 in China.
Unfortunately, they are yet to extend their dominance of women football to the global stage as their best record in the World Cup remains the quarter-final finish in 1999 in the USA.
In all, Super Falcons have won only three, drawn two and lost 14 of the 19 FIFA Women’s World Cup matches that they have played in seven appearances.
In spite of their unimpressive World Cup record, the Falcons have remained a force to reckon with on the continent and are positioned to clinch their 9th African title on December 1 in Ghana.
Interestingly, the Falcons are not gunning for just the title as they also have their eyes on one of the tickets to next year’s World Cup.
The first three teams in the championship automatically qualify to represent the
continent of Africa in the global showpiece in France.
To win their ninth title and also qualify for France 2019, the Falcons will have to first overcome their group opponents. Without doubt, South Africa and Equatorial Guinea will pose the greatest threat to them.
The women teams are not exempted from the existing football rivalry between Nigeria and South Africa. Therefore, tomorrow’s clash between the Falcons and Bayana Bayana will surely produce fireworks.
In addition, the only two titles lost by the Super Falcons were won by Equatorial Guinea who are Nigeria’s group B opponents in Ghana.
Nobody needs a seer to know that the Guineans are a big threat to the title ambition of the Super Eagles. It was therefore bad news for most fans of the Falcons when CAF announced the sack of Kenya and inclusion of Equatorial Guinea in group B.
It is not going to be a stroll in the park for the Super Falcons but their intimidating pedigree is reassuring.
Apart from experienced players, the team is handled by a seasoned expatriate coach who knows his onions. Falcons current coach, Thomas Dennerby is the second foreigner to handle the Super Falcons. The first was Dutchman Johannes Bonfrere who led the team to their first World Cup in 1991 in China. He would go on to win the 1996 Olympics gold with Dream Team 1 in the USA.
So at the 2018 AWCON in Ghana, the team will be guided from the dug-out by the Swede who led his country’s women’s national team to two FIFA World Cups and finished in third place at the 2011 finals in Germany.
He certainly comes with the right experience and knowledge of women football for the benefit of the Falcons.
Another important thing going for the defending champions is no doubt the profile of the players who are well tested and can be trusted at least on the continent. Interestingly, 12 out of the 21 players in the 2019 AWCON squad are foreign based.
Nevertheless, the remaining nine are playing for some of the top clubs in the Nigerian league. The star among them no doubt is Rasheedat Ajibade who plays for FC Robo.
Without doubt, the reigning Africa Women Footballer of the year, Asisat Oshoala who plays for Chinese side Dalian Quanjidan in the Chinese Women’s Super League is favoured to lead the charge for goals in Ghana.
She will be complemented by prolific scorer, Desire Oparanozie, USA based Francisca Ordega, Ihezuo Chiwendu and the youngest member of the squad, Ajibade who is touted to be the future poster girl of Nigerian women’s football.
This is not surprising because even if the law of diminishing returns is gradually catching up with the older strikers who have fought many battles, the young Ajibade who was falconets’ best player at the 2018 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in France is just starting.
Furthermore, mention must be made of other players in the team who also boast of World Cup experience. The defence will be marshalled by highly experienced defenders Ngozi Ebere, Onome Ebi and Osinachi Ohale.
The captain and second oldest member of the team, Rita Chikwelu will anchor the midfield with support from Ngozi Okobi and Halimat Ayinde.
It is said since most members of the present squad were in Cameroon in 2016 when the Super Falcons won their 8th AWCON title, they only need to put their acts together to win in Ghana.
Although the team didn’t play credible test matches, they rounded up their preparations in Abidjan in Cote d’Ivoire where they played few tune up matches with local clubs.
Considering what is at stake, Nigerians expect nothing short of victory from the Super Falcons who are still the team to beat in the Africa Women’s Cup of Nations.
Super Falcons stars to watch are no doubt Asisat Oshoala, Desire Oparanozie, Rita Chikwelu, Francisca Ordega and youngster, Rasheedat Ajibade.
Source: David Ngobua