The Super Falcons lost via penalties to Morocco and missed out on defending their African title as well as a 10th crown
South African legend Portia Modise has carpeted Nigeria for its reliance on old players instead of giving opportunities to younger players as a reason for its downfall in Morocco.
The Super Falcons, who were reduced to nine players, lost 5-4 via penalties after full time and extra time ended 1-1 against hosts Morocco in Monday’s second semifinal game in Rabat.
Modise, who scored 101 goals for Banyana Banyana during her career, said that Nigeria have lost their winning edge because they keep fielding many aged players that ought to have retired instead of giving opportunities to younger players from their Under 20s. However, only three players are aged 34 and older in the Nigeria squad – captain Onome Ebi (39), midfielder Rita Chikwelu (34) and goalkeeper Tochukwu Oluehi (35).
“One thing that I see in the Nigerian team is that they don’t want to let go of the senior players. They need to give the young players an opportunity. Experience alone is not going to work,” said the 39-year-old, who retired in 2015 after playing for 15 years with Banyana Banyana, during a media event organized by FIFA ahead of the 2023 Women’s World Cup.
“I see players that I used to play against, but now I am retired, they are still there. We need to give a chance to the young kids and young generation that are coming.”
Modise also said that Nigeria’s absence from the final is an opportunity for South Africa or Morocco to win the WAFCON title for the first time while the Super Falcons can try to understand what went wrong with their campaign.
“I am so happy that Nigeria is not part of the final. They have been dominating us for so many years,” Modise said.
“But it gives them an opportunity to go back home, to go back to the drawing board and see how to come back with a winning mentality.”
In Saturday’s final, Banyana have an opportunity to win their first title after five second place finishes in the past. It is an opportunity that Modise hopes that coach Desiree Ellis and her players will bring to fruition.
Modise also thinks that the increase in World Cup slots to four for Africa means that more teams get to play on the big stage to help develop women’s football on the continent.
“The game is changing in the minds of a lot of people. It is now left to sponsors that need to take the risk and say they want to grow the women’s game,” Modise said.
The four semifinalists at the WAFCON South Africa, Morocco, Nigeria and Zambia have all qualified, with the Lionesses and the Copper Queens reaching the World Cup for the first time.
Modise believes that the regional qualifying strategy adopted by CAF has resulted in more teams getting an opportunity to play at the WAFCON even though it means that teams like Ghana have to contend with Nigeria in the WAFU Zone, something that led to their failure to qualify for this year’s WAFCON and no chance of reaching the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand next year.
Nonetheless, she hopes that African teams will be able to impress at the World Cup despite the gulf in class and experience between them and the rest of the world.
Ticket sales for the Women’s World Cup will begin in September via the FIFA website.