Nigeria’s Super Falcons cruised to a 4-0 win (5-1 aggregate win) over Ethiopia to advance to the third round of the CAF Olympic Games qualifying series.
A brace from Atletico Madrid midfielder Rasheedat Ajibade and further goals from Uchenna Kanu and Asisat Oshoala did the trick for the former African champions.
Here are the major takeaways from the win:
NFF vs Waldrum cat-and-mouse game
As in the first leg, head coach Randy Waldrum could not lead the Super Falcons against the Ethiopians.
Waldrum missed the first leg due to personal commitments, but the Nigeria Football Federation had indicated that the American gaffer would be available for the second leg.
A few hours before the clash, however, the NFF spokesperson clarified that they were not expecting Waldrum to come for the match.
And thus, the cat-and-mouse game between the two parties continues.
Clearly, the NFF wants Waldrum out of the head coach role after he criticised the body for its financial mismanagement just before the start of the 2023 World Cup.
Unfortunately for the NFF, Nigerian fans’ love for the man quadrupled following the Falcons’ excellent outing in Australia and New Zealand.
The football body does not want to renew Waldrum’s contract and has kept him out of the team’s engagements since the Mundial.
Lovers of the Falcons cannot wait to see how the NFF wriggle itself out of the present mess.
The Falcons lacked more than a few against Ethiopia
The Super Falcons, under the guidance of Waldrum, looked like a team capable of winning the World Cup in August if they had gotten past England.
But in the absence of the American gaffer, the nine-time WAFCON queens played more like ducks than Falcons in Addis Ababa and in the first half in Abuja.
The team looked disjointed, lacked direction, and showed no teamwork for more than 135 minutes.
However, there was marked improvement in the second 45 minutes inside the MKO Abiola Stadium as fans saw a glimpse of the Falcons that brought joy to millions at the World Cup.
Falcons cannot bank on Asisat Oshoala for Olympics ticket
Oshoala is Africa and Nigeria’s best player at the moment. And it was confirmed on Thursday when she was named among the Ballon d’Or’s top twenty best women players in the world.
The Barcelona forward did great against Ethiopia as she scored a fine header and provided two other assists to fire Nigeria to a fine win.
But that was her second goal in over four years for Nigeria. Her first was the winner against Australia in July.
Oshoala could and should have had more goals during that period, especially over the two legs against Ethiopia, but she was wasteful.
For Nigeria to qualify for the Olympics, the team’s coaches must admit that Oshoala is not as prolific for the Falcons as she is for Barcelona.
And another needs to be groomed as Nigeria’s new number nine while Oshoala drops to being a creator either from the wings or the centre.
Gift Monday or Uchenna Kanu has a better nose for scoring goals, and Rinsola Babajide can understudy her.
The Falcons need a new goal queen in the mould of Perpetual Nkwocha, and Oshoala is not that person.
Ajibade is the ideal captain after Ebi
Rasheedat Ajibade captained the Super Falcons over the two legs against Ethiopia, and what a fantastic job she did.
Ordinarily, in the absence of Onome Ebi, Oshoala is the stand-in captain.
But Ajibade was entrusted with that responsibility in Addis Ababa, and she did not disappoint as she ensured the team did not lose their head or the match despite the many unfavourable conditions they faced.
The 23-year-old scored the equaliser to earn Nigeria a 1-1 draw last week.
Ajibade delivered the goods again in the return leg as she scored the Falcons’ second goal early in the second half to calm fraying nerves in the stands and the dugouts.
She then completed her brace to make it four-nil for Nigeria as she showed more composure in front of goals than the strikers in front of her.
Oshoala may be the biggest star of this team, but Ajibade is not that far behind.