Are The Super Falcons Ready For The World Stage?
The Super Falcons of Nigeria are undoubtedly the Queens of African Football. With a record eleven Africa Women Cup of Nations championships, their dominance is not only unmatched on the continent, but globally.
With the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup set to take centre stage, it is time Nigeria moved away from participating to challenging. The country has been to every edition of the World Cup, failing to advance to the Quarter-Finals in six of the last seven and crashing out at the group stages twice at the Olympic Games.
While their stronghold over Africa’s premium Women’s Football prize is already established, they have struck fear into the hearts of opposing teams on the continent. The Super Falcons are not just dominant, the narrative has changed and the question is being asked if they are now bullies.
After their third consecutive AWCON triumph in Ghana, questions have been asked of the team’s failure to recreate its continental dominance on the international stage. The Nigeria Football Federation led by Amaju Pinnick has rightly stated that the arrival of Swedish coach Thomas Dennerby is to take the team to the next level.
Dennerby’s experience will face the test at the 2019 World Cup where the Super Falcons are paired in a difficult group against Norway, South Korea and hosts France. The Swedish tactician’s pedigree includes managing several European sides as well as being in charge of the Swedish Women’s team for seven years with abysmal outings at the UEFA European Women’s Championship, but was able to lead them to a third-place finish at the 2013 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
Dennerby’s experience on the international stage is an upgrade on previous coaches from a tactical point of view, but with just one year to set up his team, It is left to be seen if his team will be ready at the World Cup. However, tactical changes are not all that is required for the Super Falcons to impose their football on the World stage.
While Nigeria dominates Women’s football on the continent, the Local League is nothing but a joke. As 11 times winners of the AWCON, Nigeria should be setting the standard for Women’s Football on the continent, rather League Games are played on substandard pitches and little or no publicity with no youth and developmental structure.
The NFF Women’s administration will have to come out with a feasible developmental structure to get younger players interested in football and make it more attractive to potential sponsors.
Nigeria’s U-17 team, The Flamingos, failed to qualify for the World Cup last year, while the Falconets were eliminated in the Quarter-Finals after a series of shocking displays throughout the competition.
For the Super Falcons to develop into a dominant force on the World stage, the youth teams need to be taken seriously. The emphasis on the competition should be strictly for developmental purposes, not an avenue to give League Players scouting opportunity which will mean reducing age cheats to the barest minimum.
The Super Falcons over the years have ridden on generational talents who have inspired the country to dominance on the continent such as Mercy Akide and Perpetua Nkwocha, to list a few. In this era, the superior talent and technique of Asisat Oshoala, Desire Oparaonzie, Francisca Ordega and others just set them apart from their counterparts on the continent.
However, this will not last much longer as other African sides are catching up. For instance, at the last AWCON, South Africa defeated Nigeria in the group stage and were unlucky to lose out on penalties in the final, which emphasizes the need for improvement more than ever.
Women’s Football all over the world is way behind compared to the men’s game – this is evident in the buzz generated for the men’s World Cup last year. However, the game is steadily progressing, with South Africa’s obvious progression a wake-up call for the Super Falcons to respond.
While the rest of Africa is getting stronger, it is up to the Super Falcons to fly the continent’s flag on the world stage, although France may just be too early to start.