The Super Falcons will face perennial rivals – Banyana Banyana on Monday evening at the ongoing Women of Africa Cup of Nations 2022 in Morocco
On paper, the Super Falcons have the best team on the continent with players in top European leagues in the team.
The biggest female footballer on the continent, Asisat Oshoala is expected to feature for the Super Falcons as they push for a 10th WAFCON title.
Female football on the continent is closer than ever and the Super Falcons must have had a glimpse of this in the last few years.
At the 2018 WAFCON, they lost to South Africa in the group stage before defeating the Banyana Banyana via penalties in the final.
At the Aisha Buhari Cup, the South Africans pummeled Nigeria 4-2 in what’s one of the biggest signs of the fast pace of women’s football development in Africa.
The positive is that the Nigerian players have realised this and have felt it at close quarters. Their road to the WAFCON was perhaps the most bumpy of every team that has made it through. Nigeria laboured to overcome Ghana and Ivory Coast before sealing a ticket to Morocco.
Every Nigerian wants a 10th WAFCON, as the popular culture is triumph especially in female football. There’s a significant difference in the level of successes enjoyed by Nigerian women’s team relative to the men’s team, and on the days things go awry for the men, the women have always been the go-to source of inspiration.
After the Super Eagles missed out on the World Cup, it will be a colossal disappointment if the Super Falcons fail to pick a World Cup ticket also, and this informs the reason many of the players have been moderate about their dreams and focused on their most important realities.
Waldrum’s team list and player deployment – the key
American, Waldrum has shown he can build a good team when he has time on his hands. Preparations for this WAFCON have been better than anything the Falcons have gotten in the past but players are still not sure of what their best foot is going forward.
Waldrum has shown a good flexibility since he came on board and more players have joined the team from established foreign clubs. The key to victory however remains in how these enormously talented players are deployed especially in the attack.
Players like Ashleigh Plumptre must be utilised to good effect as she can play as centre back or as a left back.
Onumonu-Oshoala: A coach’s dream forward line
To play through Ifeoma Onumonu, or play to her as the focal point of the attack, Waldrum has a big decision on his hands.
The NJ/NY Gotham forward has a frame that makes her a big aerial threat for a team. Her impressive hold-up play and well-timed runs also makes her a dangerous element.
Oshoala is no newbie to opponents. The La Liga Femenino top scorer is one of the best players in the world and all eyes will be on her at the tournament.
Waldrum should learn to use one to the strength of the other as Oshoala’s pace and Onumonu’s frame can make them a beautiful pair at the WAFCON.
There are also good options in Uchenna Kanu, who is more gangly, hard-fighting and powerful in style and Gift Monday, whose rawness will come to great advantage for the team if deployed.
Waldrum has a rich list of performers on his hands and he must tinker to triumph and be bold in his projections.
Finding Ajibade’s best position and the right midfield combinations
A blessing perhaps, is the strength of Rasheedat Ajibade’s quality and range. The Atletico Madrid Femeni star is a good attacker, a fine midfielder, a good winger and may even be ready to play positions she’s never been tried in.
Her skillset is one of the best in the team, and by the virtue of those, it may be confusing for a coach to find her best position.
In both friendly games against Olympic champions, Canada, she was solid and performed excellently well.
To get the best of her, she must be deployed where she finds the best comfort and can help the team the best. Her youth, ruggedness and energy can help the team in being the midfield runner with the more experienced Rita Chikwelu expected to do the scheming while Regina Otu sits as a deep-lying playmaker.
She’s also a strong option from the wings where she also plays for Atletico Femeni.
There’s also a goalscoring midfielder in Christy Ucheibe in the team and the Benfica midfielder is also a great passer.
The right midfield combinations are important to get the best of the team at the tournament.