The Super Falcons of Nigeria will face the Indomitable Lionesses of Cameroon in the Quarter Finals of the ongoing Women’s African Cup of Nations in Morocco, after trouncing the Swallows of Burundi at the Stade Moulay Hassan, Rabat, Morocco on Sunday.
The team led by Randy Waldrum bounced back from their opening day defeat to South Africa to defeat the Mares of Botswana and required a win against their opponents – Burundi; who had lost their first two games to maintain their stranglehold on 2nd place in the group.
Atletico Madrid forward, Rashidat Ajibade remained a tormentor of the Swallows’ right rearguard as she steamrolled with unimaginable pace, and effectively connected with a through pass from Captain Onome Ebi, racing past her marker and was brought down in the area, a spot-kick she expertly tucked away.
Additional goals from Peace Efih, and a brace from Uchenna Kanu summed up a night of chastening defeat inflicted on the Swallows by the 9-time champions, confirming that the most dominant force will be in the quarter-finals of the 12th edition of the women’s flagship competition on the continent.
NIGERIA VS SOUTH AFRICA
Expectations were high as the game which pitted arguably two of the most dominant forces in women’s games in the continent got underway, and the Super Falcons have won the tournament on 9 occasions, beating their rivals the last time out in Ghana failed to sparkle losing devastatingly, barring the score line at full time.
The gaffer had gone for a strong starting eleven, with former captain and Barcelona feminine forward Asisat Oshola leading the lines, whereas an experienced centre-back partnership of current captain Onome Ebi and Osinachi Ohale marshaled the defence, the forward areas still had Ifeoma Onumonu and Ajibade.
With the names on the starting eleven, a lot was expected of the ladies, and the fact that it was against a perennial rival, who had beaten them in the Aisha Buhari cup in 202on even more, was anticipated. The Ladies were ponderous, lethargic and leggy, such that they failed to knit passes together, not least carving out chances capable of becoming goals.
Even more worrying, was the fact that they were seemingly forced to go long, lacked cohesion and an absolute incongruence across the department, with creativity shorn on display. The South Africans were somewhat kept at bay despite their dominance but made the two chances which came their way count, benefiting from little errors at the back. Ajibade slammed home the consolation in injury time, but the deed had already been done.
NIGERIA VS BOTSWANA
The penultimate game against the Mares was one they knew nothing would have done other than a win, and they went for it. An improved display across the departments, with 3 changes which included Chiamaka Nnadozie, Francisca Ordega and Ngozi Okobi-Okeoghene replacing Tochukwu Oluehi and the injured duo of Asisat Oshola and Ashleigh Plumptre.
Fluidity, cohesion and ball progression returned to the ranks of the Super Falcons, as they took command of the game from the get-go, something which was largely absent in their first fray. The threaded pass, which sort and found Ifeoma Onumonu for the opener justified the need for the midfield to become innovative and adventurous.
Again, aside from the commanding display and dominance against the Mares, every wrong thing was done rightly, and the substitutions paid off, as Christy Ucheibe got off the bench to double the lead and confirm that the Super Falcons were still poised on going into the knockout stages.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR THE SUPER FALCONS?
Ahead of the tournament, the talk about the tenth title dominated the media space, and whether that ambition is very much realizable is subject to a Quarter final test and subsequently the Semis. However, the best question to ask is – Are the Super Falcons capable of going for 10?
Being a team rich in quality, experience and youthfulness, it is expected that ambitions would always be high, and the same is no different for theirs. Bouncing back from an excruciating opening day defeat with convincing wins against their other two opponents shows their mental strength, and strong will to weather through storms of disappointments.
Again, the team has steadily grown into the tournament, with an upward trajectory in numbers from possession, to several shots and even chances created across all three games, with the last two producing an average of 15.5 shots and 69.5 % possession, which is a sustained number will mean the Indomitable Lionesses of Cameroon would have their work cut out.
However, a more than relative control as was projected in their last group stage game is one which will prove invaluable for them as they prepare to face off with Cameroon. Following Christy Ucheibe’s goal in the penultimate game, the Benfica midfielder was given the nod to start in the last tie, and her commanding presence in the centre of the park was well felt. She sat deep and ventured forward depending on the section of the pitch the activity laid and had a drive strike the foot of the post, such will be required on Thursday.
Coach Randy Waldrum may have left his opponents and team analyst in the utmost confusion, owing to the variety of changes he made across the three games, it is left to be seen which approach he will adopt in their Quarter final clash – going long which prevailed against South Africa, wing play where Uchenna Kanu and Ajibade ran wragged of Burundi and playing from the centre, whatever approach he would adopt versus Cameroon, the utmost goal will be to book a place in the Semi-final of the 12th Edition of the Women’s African Cup of Nations, and a berth for the FIFA Women’s World Cup slated for 2023 in Australia and New Zealand.
Thursday’s spectacle in Casablanca is expected to be explosive, but Nigeria captain Onome Ebi says the Falcons are up for the challenge.
“Of course, we know what to expect. The Cameroonians also want to go to the World Cup. But we have never missed the World Cup and we won’t start now. Our eyes are fully focused on Australia & New Zealand, and then we can start talking about the trophy”.
Forwards Rasheedat Ajibade and Uchenna Kanu, on two goals each, are expected to start against Cameroon, with Coach Waldrum also expected to keep faith with most of the crew that decimated Burundi in Rabat on Sunday night.