Nigeria will kick off their quest to qualify for the 2024 Olympic Games with a clash against Ethiopia at the Abebe Bikila Stadium, Addis Ababa, on Wednesday, October 25, 2023.
It is the Super Falcons’ first match since losing on penalties to England in the knockout rounds of the 2023 FIFA World Cup in Australia and New Zealand in the summer.
The Falcons were excellent at that tournament, as they played for games without suffering a defeat in regulation time.
Aside from an impressive 3-2 victory over co-hosts Australia, the former African champions were held to thrilling draws by Canada and the Republic of Ireland.
But the disappointment of the penalty shootout defeat to England would have waned when the Super Falcons file out against Ethiopia in the first leg of their Olympic Games qualifying campaign.
Nigeria start as one of the favourites to make it to the event in Paris next year, but the nine-time WAFCON winners have had a terrible record in the competition in recent times.
The Falcons, who have made it to every edition of the World Cup, have only appeared at the Olympic Games on three occasions.
While they are the only African nation to have contested the Women’s Olympic Tournament three times, Nigeria have not qualified for the games since 2008.
Equatorial Guinea knocked out the Falcons during the qualifiers in 2015, while Côte d’Ivoire dashed Nigeria’s dreams in 2019.
Ethiopia will aim to do damage this time, with the Lucy unbeaten in regulation time in each of their last five games in all competitions.
That run includes victories over Chad (twice) and Tanzania, but the Falcons are several notches above those oppositions.
Nigeria will be favourites to outclass Ethiopia, who have never qualified for a major global competition and last graced the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations in 2012.
Nigeria defeated Ethiopia 7-0 on October 9, 2003, in Lagos at the All-Africa Games, and it remains the heaviest loss Lucy have suffered in international football.
However, the last time these two teams met was during the group stage at the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations in 2012, with Nigeria claiming a 3-0 win.
Head coach Randy Waldrum will not be available for this first-leg fixture as he has commitments with the University of Pittsburgh Panthers women’s team, where he also serves as the head coach.
Waldrum will be available for the second leg, though. The American tactician’s Nigerian assistants – Justin Madugu, Ann Chiejine, and Auwal Makwalla – have been in charge of team training in Addis Ababa.
Three of Nigeria’s key players at the World Cup in July – Ashleigh Plumptre, Halimotu Ayinde, and Christy Ucheibe – will also miss the games.
But there are several first-team regulars in camp to prosecute the match, including in-form Paris FC goalkeeper Chiamaka Nnadozie, Barcelona striker Asisat Oshoala, Stade de Reims’ defensive ace Oluwatosin Demehin, and Atletico Madrid forward Rasheedat Ajibade.
A few youngsters have also been invited to the national team set-up, including Esther Onyenezide and Opeyemi Ajakaye.
Ethiopia v Nigeria
All times are local time
First leg – 25 October (15:30)
Abebe Bikila Stadium, Addis Ababa (Ethiopia)
Second leg – 31 October (16:00)
MKO Abiola Stadium, Abeokuta (Nigeria)