For the first time since 2012, the Super Falcons have failed to make a podium finish at the Women African Cup of Nations
Nigeria have ended the 2022 WAFCON the way it started – in defeat. Fingers have been raised and pointed in multiple directions but majority have blamed inadequate technical input as the reason for the Super Falcons’ failure.
Friday’s loss to Zambia must be a painful reality to many players in the team but they can be proud of the little they managed. It’s the game.
More than their performance, the never-ending administrative failures also raise some dust, but the world is used to that misnomer and reactions to it have been unsurprising.
Time and again, the NFF has failed in its responsibility to make players get rewards for their labour. The 2019 saga and how Desire Oparanozie was frozen out of the team still ring true.
The events of the training boycott before Friday’s loss to Zambia will have victims. Nigerian leaders hardly enjoy confrontation, even when they fail.
Verily, it’s not why the team has failed to pick a place on the podium at the competition but it is expected of an organised people to respect the service of others and reward them accordingly.
Hands in the air, Waldrum!
Nigeria’s struggles had a finger in the air. Randy Waldrum’s struggles were evident at the Aisha Buhari Cup in Lagos. The tournament played in Turkey also showed evident lapses, including the struggle in the midfield. The friendlies against Canada also showed why the team didn’t gel on most days. The style was too reliant on individuals.
Waldrum has been out of depths with the demands of his job and it is not surprising that he has such a big job, perhaps the biggest of his career so far, despite his low profile. It’s an Americanah wonder. The sort that Pinnick loves.
The level of expectations that come with the Nigerian job is massive and receipts are taken by millions of fans, who necessarily are not emotionally vested in the performances of this particular team, but are by loyalty, expectant of good results.
Amaju Pinnick once again failed to respect consistency in this regard. Thomas Dennerby had no business leaving if everything proved good from an administrative sense. How that romance ended is a story of love going sour.
The Swede would have had the time he needed to continue building a strong squad of emerging players. Nigeria’s 2018 WAFCON success and the 2019 World Cup were pointers to possibilities but he was always a placeholder after Waldrum had first turned the team down.
In fairness to the American, he brought in equally talented players whose presence may be significant to the future of the team. Ifeoma Onumonu, Toni Payne, Glory Alozie, Ashleigh Plumptre and others have had quality showings in Nigeria’s shirt but the technical level of the bench is questionable.
Injuries and suspensions may be blamed for where the team found itself on the final day with Asisat Oshoala, Onome Ebi, Halimatu Ayinde, Rasheedat Ajibade all not dressed for the third-place match but Waldrum hardly showed a clear understanding of his opposition.
As a team, the weight of expectations on individuals is all too glaring. In the absence of these individuals, the team struggled.
More than the names- Star-spangled Falcons
On paper, the Super Falcons have presented the best players at the tournament but African women’s football, like everywhere in the world is growing. There are no small teams. Football’s growth across the globe has been exponential and many countries have taken to development. Nigeria has not and teams have caught up with the Super Falcons.
The need for better organisation is too frank in the team and across Nigerian football and Pinnick’s isolated picnic with coaches have always failed to yield results. He has almost single-handedly made appointments for the Super Falcons.
In Morocco, there were clear struggles in the creative departments and approach to games. This ensured the Falcons struggled against teams who kept a low base. The coaching had dangerous pointers. Disappointing performances by some players in the team is also partly responsible for the team’s struggles.
What anyone in the team can’t be accused of not having, however, is the attitude required to prosper. Despite the desire and the quality of players, the man on the bench never seemed like it. And this is a resonant narrative.
On the level of reaching immediate goals, Waldrum has ticked a list, and he was clear from the beginning.
“The two biggest things on my mind is the importance to qualify because it’s qualification for the World Cup that has always been the goal. As much as we want to win the AFCON, the most important thing for now is qualifying and another important thing for a coach is preparing well, ” he told NFF TV before the tournament.
“I think we prepared well. We have to give credit to the President for giving us opportunities to play in those games, to take those trips (to Turkey, Canada and the US) and have those camps. It was difficult in those games in Turkey, the US and Canada as I never thought we ever had our best team together.“
His admission of good preparation may attempt to hail Pinnick’s efforts to get the team well-oiled for the tournament and the President will mention them, as usual. But the American needed this exposure to understand his level.
It doesn’t take stars only to win football games. The decimation of the rather uncreative “La Decima” has its blood on Pinnick’s hands and Waldrum hasn’t done greatly for his CV but it’s not surprising and if he will learn, there are possibilities and potential for betterment. If he will learn.
Why Monday? Why not Monday?
Gift Monday is clearly gifted. She’s raw. She’s energetic and her hunger is exceptional. Every time she came on at the WAFCON, she showed desire. That she was initially not considered told a tale of Waldrum’s idea of the local game. He had to pick her based on other orders.
Monday can be proud of her performance at the tournament. She showed she could be a handful if she’s trusted, but she failed to grab the headlines against Zambia.
Golden opportunities fell to her and she missed them. This is not strange for players her age and level, and the years ahead will bring more for her but on the back of Friday’s blatant profligacy, Monday is not the worst seen. Forwards thrive on opportunities, Monday will grow.
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