Nigeria emerged Champions at the just concluded 10th Edition of the Africa Women Cup of Nations in Cameroon, bringing their haul of African titles for all time to 10, but watching the Falcons evoked a mixed bag of emotions…
THE GOOD – It was good to see Faith Ikhidi back in the team, after being ignored for a while. The experienced defender proved her worth by the excellent display that was capped with that exhilarating run in the semi-final, that led to the free kick which Oparanozie converted.
The rise of Ngozi Okobi was a welcome development. We always knew she could play, and she was awesome when called upon, especially in the semi-final when she ran the Banyana Banyana ragged. She will still need to work on her final ball though.
Alaba Jonathan was a shock selection in goal ahead of Ebubeleye Whyte. But Jonathan was calm under pressure, and had an imperious air about her in goal. She will be around for a while, and it is good Nigeria has two excellent goal keepers to choose from.
THE PAIN – Asisat Oshoala stranded on the wings all tournament-long was painful to watch. The Arsenal Ladies star would have fared better, and given the team better service in a central role, just behind the main striker.
It was disheartening to see a player of Esther Sunday’s quality left on the bench all through the competition. Just as the inability of Glory Iroka to get a game was baffling. One or both of them could have had a run-out when Nigeria was comfortably leading, either against Kenya or Mali.
The sight of South Africa outplaying Nigeria in was hard to take, until Falcons prevailed. The fact that Banyana Banyana played good football, and actually subdued Falcons was alarming. South Africa?!
Finally, the realization that Falcons will still be cannon-fodders for better-prepared and better-managed teams at the world stage was difficult to swallow. Yes, the Super Falcons are African Champions, but the football they played was ordinary at best, and they looked unschooled in tactics at the worst of times.
So, onto 2018 when we meet in Ghana to decide which teams will qualify for the 2019 FIFA Women World Cup.
Picture Courtesy @thenff