The Falcons will be cooked in France, unless…

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Hosts France, Korea Republic, and Norway. That’s the nut the Nigeria Women national soccer team, the Super Falcons have been given to crack in the first round of the FIFA Women’s World Cup in France in 2019. In sports, we say impossible is nothing; but given what we saw at the Africa Women’s Championship in Ghana, Nigeria may be on the way home again after three games, unless…

The Falcons win the first game against Norway. It’s very difficult to visualize a Nigeria win over Norway, especially as the two previous meetings against the Scandinavians yielded 11 goals for the Grasshoppers and a solitary one for the Falcons. But the last of those victories was 18 years ago, and the stock of the Norwegians has taken a dive since then. That Norway was the one that won a rash of medals in Europe, at the Olympics and at the World Championships; but they have not won any title since 2000, and were knocked out at the second round by England at the last World Cup. The Falcons were not convincing in Ghana, but they are African Champions.  A win against Norway will lift the Falcons, and give them the hope of getting a result against Korea Republic. The other option is…

The Falcons get a draw against Norway, and secure the win over Korea Republic. While a win against Norway is difficult to visualize, a draw is possibility; and a win against Korea Republic is not that hard to see happening. But it must be stressed that it is easier said than done. The Falcons and the Taegeuk Ladies have never met at this level, but the Falcons have played their northern neighbours twice: they won one and lost the other. The key for the Falcons is that they will be an unknown quantity to the Koreans, who are likely to be stronger, and are likely to be more skilful. The Koreans will be tactically better, and will be stronger as the game progresses. The key then, is for the Falcons to take their chances early, and hunker down when Korea turn on the heat. It will be tough, but it can be done.

Before these options can become viable though, there are a couple of things that the Nigeria Football Federation and Thomas Dennerby need to address. There is a minor reference to one in an earlier article, here is the expanded version:

Use the January camp opening to forge a new team. Yep, a new team. This solution is so simple it is ridiculous. Football is a team game; that is a popular saying; it is also a known fact that big names don’t play football, people do. Therefore, Dennerby and the NFF should stick to the January camping plan. That group that we saw in Ghana wasn’t a team; those were talented individuals with the team chemistry of a pickup side. Some pickup sides even have better cohesion. That camping exercise is the chance for Dennerby to stamp his style on the team, and win the respect of Nigerians. He can develop a unit that thinks as one, moves as one, and take the chances they create. If he can set his mind to this, the Falcons are halfway there.

The number of groups mean that four third placed teams will qualify alongside the top two of each unit. So, if the Falcons secure a good third place finish, they face the winners of Group C. The confidence level following qualification would be high, and anything can happen. All these are possible, but it starts with the preparations from January, and with those first two games in France.

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