The Super Falcons of Nigeria have qualified to the FIFA Women’s World Cup for the eight time by virtue of their penalty win over Cameroun in the semi-final of the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations in Ghana.
Per the evidence of their displays in their last four matches, they will be in France next year probably just to add to the numbers because despite dominating Africa, the Super Falcons have been unable to rule the FIFA Women’s World Cup and the farthest they have gone since 1991 was to finish in the top eight just once.
Here are five conclusions we came to after their semi-final game against Cameroun on played at the Accra Sports Stadium on Tuesday, November 27.
The team is aging
Age is a good thing in women’s football as players have great careers into their 40s; but in the case of the Nigerian, the players are aging but they don’t look to be changing for the better.
The starting 11 against Cameroun had an average age of 27, far below the median for teams to have won the World Cup and Olympic titles. A player like Desiree Oparanozie is already at her fourth AFCON tournament and has been a professional for seven years.
Good players but no team
From the goalkeeper, Tochukwu Oluehi, to Desire Oparanozie, the team is full of quality and experienced players. However, their experience was not visible in the game as possession stats at the end of the match showed that the team was totally bullied and outplayed by the Indomitable Lionesses.
With just 32 per cent of the possession, the play was disjointed and haphazard – not one befitting such an experienced group of players having grown through age-grade teams together. But for the penalty shootouts which favoured Nigeria, Cameroun would have qualified to the final of the Women's AFCON.
The offensive dynamic is off
When the Super Falcons line up Francisca Ordega, Desire Oparanozie, and Asisat Osoala, there should be a lot of goals like they did in their second group game against Zambia. Opponents are supposed to quake in their boots. But this triumvirate got no shot on target against Cameroun on Tuesday.
One could count the number of times these three players combined in the half of the Camerounians without producing any meaningful result and, that is not right.
More like the Super Eagles
Just as it has become normal for the male national team, the Super Falcons started the game against Cameroun with all outfield players plying their trade outside the country.
The consequences for the local league is dire because every average player knows there is no future in the league at home and at the briefest window of opportunity, will exit for any foreign league where they will earn what they cannot get locally.
Africa has caught up
Against Cameroun, the Nigerians had a low percentage of possession and their pass accuracy was below the 50 per cent mark. They also recorded just one corner kick, compared to the Lionesses’ four.
If the Nigeria Football Federation does nothing to help this team, especially with quality friendly matches and improve the level of the local league, then the next AFCON could be a shocking eye opener. The future does not look too good based on Tuesday’s antecedents.
After picking one of the three tickets to France, head coach Thomas Dennarby said, “For now we celebrate and prepare for the final match on Saturday.
“We are happy that we have won the game and picked one of the three tickets to the FIFA Women’s World Cup. Like I said yesterday, now that we have that out of the way, the next target is retaining the trophy.”
But should that be enough for the eight-time champions? Perhaps having conquered Africa over and over again, what the Nigerian fans are demanding is a good showing on the world stage too.