The Super Falcons were second-best for most of the game, but produced arguably their best football of the tournament in the 1-0 defeat of Banyana Banyana in the semi-final of the 10th Africa Women Championship. But the Nigerian women will need to play even better in the Final. Here is a checklist of what they’ll need to do.
Falcons must take special care in defence. The Lionesses have been falling over in the opposition box, especially Gabrielle Onguene. Thus far, they’ve not been awarded a penalty. Cameroon are playing at home, just like Equatorial Guinea were the two times they won. The Falcons must not fall prey with rash tackles when Gabrielle has the ball.
Still on defence, Osinachi Ohale is the marker, and will handle Gaelle Enganamouit, with Onome Ebi picking up the pieces in the sweeper position. Ugo Njoku and Faith Ikhidi will handle Gabrielle Onguene wherever she pops up. And she will pop up severally on both wings with her aggressive play…before dramatically falling over in the box, if they allow her. Falcons will do well to keep the same shape they kept against Banyana.
The introduction of Desire Oparanozie and Ngozi Okobi as starters, and the resting of Osarenoma Igbinovia smoothed the play of Falcons. Oparanozie’s size will again be needed against the physical Lionesses, while the mazy runs of Okobi should earn free kicks around the box. But Florence Omagbemi must make two more changes:
Okobi and Asisat Oshola must switch places, with Oshoala playing just behind Oparanozie. Oshola is arguably the most talented player in the team, her vision will be vital if the Falcons will prevail.
Rita Chikwelu and Halimat Aynde are doing good work, and must see plenty of the ball. They were oppressed by the smooth-passing South African midfield, but Cameroon are not that good, with all due respect. If anything, the Lionesses will likely try to bypass the midfield and will either attack through the flanks, or hoof high balls to Enganamouit.
Finally, Francesca Ordega has been lightweight in this tournament, and may be obliterated by the burly Lionesses. Chioma Wogu is a fighter and her strength may be needed. Esther Sunday is yet to play any part in this tournament, and her inventiveness on the flanks may be the x-factor, should Falcons need one.
The battle against Cameroon will be bruising, but the Falcons have never lost a Final, and can win this one too!
Picture Courtesy @thenff