Sports

WAFCON 2022: Super Falcons’ big crash


..Waldrum’s tactics under scrutiny
THE Super Falcons bowed out of the 12th African Women Cup of Nations in the most undignified manner. For the first time in their storied history in the competition, the Randy Waldrum-tutored girls were eliminated in the quarter finals of WAFCON by a less-fancied Morocco team, a tournament they had made their specialty after winning it a record 9 times out of 11 editions.
The Falcons did not only get knocked out, they were at the receiving end of the Video Assistant Referee(VAR) which dished out two red cards to key members of the team during the crucial match. Halimatu Ayinde was red-carded in the 47th minute while star striker Rasheedat Ajibade got hers in the 69th minute. But the Falcons were able to hold their own, scored first with ten men before  the Moroccans equalised late in the match.
Super Falcons’ number one choice, Chiamaka Nnadozie later described the Nigeria v Morocco encounter as the worst match of her life.
She was so miffed that what played was akin to a conspiracy against the Falcons. Nnadozie who won Woman-of-the-Match award said even the Moroccans knew that they were the better side and blamed their exit on poor officiating.
“The whole Moroccan team knew that Nigeria is a great team, so to beat us they had to distract us,” Nnadozie wrote on her social media pages.
“They did everything they did just to distract us. Since I have been playing football, this is the worst match I have ever played in my life.
“They won but this is not winning for me. The officiating was not really okay. If they were good enough, we were nine players against 11, they would have scored and won. That is to show you how great we are.”
Former Super Falcons and Enyimba Coach, Kadiri Ikhana agreed with Nnadozie in terms of poor officiating. Said he to Premium Times, “CAF needs to do something about officiating because it’s setting us backward as Africans. There is nothing like home advantage in football.”
But an overall appreciation of the Falcons’ performance in the tournament will show that the Super Falcons problems were beyond officiating. Some are quick to point to the technical quality of the Nigerian squad at this year’s WAFCON as fundamentally defective. From the opening match, which the Falcons lost to South Africa, discerning observers raised fears over the technical approach of Randy Waldrum to the match against the Banyana Banyana. His seeming dependence on experienced players at the expense of the more youthful but equally gifted players and his team selection begged the question. He was also accused of being slow in making substitutions, an attribute indicating poor match reading and poor application of tactics. These were some of the factors critics pointed out against Waldrum’s judgment. The South Africans were hungrier, tactically had an edge over the Falcons and those who watched the match said the 2-1 scoreline flattered the Nigerian women who were outclassed and outmatched.
South African legend Portia Modise said Nigeria are not ready to take the risk of exposing younger, hungrier players. Modise, who scored 101 goals for Banyana Banyana during her career, said that Nigeria have lost their winning edge because they keep fielding many aged players that ought to have retired. Invariably, she was alluding to the presence of captain Onome Ebi, Rita Chikwelu, Osinachi Ohale and Francisca Ordega
“One thing that I see in the Nigerian team is that they don’t want to let go of the senior players. They need to give the young players an opportunity. Experience alone is not going to work,” said the 39-year-old, who retired in 2015 after playing for 15 years with Banyana Banyana,.
“I see players that I used to play against, but now I am retired, they are still there. We need to give a chance to the young kids and young generation that are coming,” she reiterated.
Olusola Adebayo, a sports commentator, said some coaching errors cost Nigeria a final ticket.
“The Super Falcons were a bit unlucky playing with nine players for almost an hour and they still pushed the game to the limit. I sincerely doff my hat for them. Their doggedness and determination  saw them take the Moroccans to their limits.”
On Waldrum, he added: “Having said that, the coach could have done more by pulling out Onumonu. Even a blind man could see that she was so tired.
“Then the coach let her down by allowing her to take one of the penalties, which she eventually lost, probably because of a dead leg. She was tired.
“The coach needs to improve on his tactics and build on the positives going forward.
“It’s a great display of bravery from the girls. They should keep it up. They bowed out like true champions.”
Another journalist, Enitan Obadina, advocated a better coaching crew for the Super Falcons if they are to fulfill their potential.
He said, “The team gave it their all but lost due to the quality of the coach who got some substitutions wrong and also the selection of penalty takers. It’s a reflection of the stagnant nature of our women’s football and the growth of other African teams.
“I think we need a change. We need a coach that can take the team forward and harness the individual talents into a team.
After their elimination in the quarter finals, another ugly incident which has become a recurring decimal in Nigeria’s  participation in major tournaments was the issue of owed bonuses which the players protested by boycotting training ahead of the losers final against Zambia.
Notwithstanding the outcome of the third place math, Nigerians are already thinking of next year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup. Like every other concerned Nigerian, one expects that the Super Falcons will prove their worth .

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