Super Falcons: Time To Prove Class

By Fred EDOREH

The Morocco 2022 African Women Football Nations Cup kicks off for the Super Falcons of Nigeria on Monday, July 4, with a clash against the Banyana Banyana of South Africa.

They top the list of favourites to win the tournament having won it nine times and now going for the tenth. On paper, their major opponent in Group C are the South Africans over whom they have had the better head to head by outclassing them in the 1995, 2000 and 2018 finals.

But, that is possibly as far as it goes. These are no times to live in past glory. Thankfully, one of the most influential players, Asisat Oshoala has voiced this realisation.

Banyana Banyana gave Super Falcons a stiff run in the 2018 finals which ended 1-1 at regulation time before the Nigerians edged them in the penalty shootout but the South Africans came to Nigeria later to defeat the Falcons by 4-2 at the Aisha Buhari Cup in 2021.

The Falcons have also lost three consecutive Olympics qualifying tickets – to London 2012, Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020. The last was by allowing a 1-1 draw with Cote d’Ivoire also in Lagos.

These do not deduct from the fact that the Falcons are still the leaders in Africa but are pointers to the fact that other countries are picking up and challenging hard to displace them. In fact, the Danny Jordan led South Africa Football Association has offered a whopping R10m for the Banyana Banyana to win the AWFCON. It is the highest pay for any South African team so far, indicating that they want the pole position badly.

The Falcons must also not fall to any temptation to dismiss Botswana and Burundi in the group as non-class. Yes, by team record and quality of individual players they don’t compare, but this is football. They have shown to be high scoring sides for any defence that loses guard to them. Botswana had had a draw with South Africa at some point and dealt Angola about seven goals. Burundi did as much as ten goals against Djibouti.

The imperative for the Falcons is to understand that they are the target for other aspiring champions and are therefore to bring on more fire into their game to establish their dominance.

So much is at stake in Morocco – the pride of the team, the glory of the nation, the continental title itself and, most importantly, the qualifying ticket to the FIFA Women World Cup in Australia.

The Falcons have all the elements to achieve all these. Perhaps, no other team can boast of the assemblage and class of top league players as they do, but while they have good advantage with the technical and tactical approaches acquired from their various European clubs, they must not be complacent to ignore effectively combining the ruggedness for which they are called Super.

Just as a reminder, Clemens Westerhorf who led Nigerian football into its golden era revealed that beyond beautiful flowing football, Nigeria stunned the world with the added elements of ruggedness defined in sense, strength and speed.

They must bully any opponent as much as they can, after all, the success of any offensive, in war as also in sports, is determined by skill, intelligence, fire power and surprise. If you don’t shoot, you don’t kill.

Thankfully, the Amaju Pinnick led NFF has provided virtually all that the board needed to provide, perhaps far more and better than all other teams in the competition, to keep the Falcons comfortable and focused – from high quality international friendlies, to excellent arrangements for flight, accommodation, feeding, camping, medicals, equipment and more, including a bit of pampering.

The NFF board members cannot go into the pitch to play. The ball is now only in the court of the players.