Rio 2016: Eyes On Pointe Noire… Ears In Bata

The Super Falcons are in Equatorial Guinea for tomorrow’s battle of Bata without some of their key players, including Onome Ebi (Jersey No 5).

The Super Falcons are in Equatorial Guinea for tomorrow’s battle of Bata without some of their key players, including Onome Ebi (Jersey No 5).

Former Super Falcons team captain, US-based Florence Omagbemi is not comfortable with this double-headed battle in one day, especially the pairing involving the Falcons in Bata. “My major concern is the game involving the Falcons and Nzalang Nacional in Equatorial Guinea,” Omagbemi told The Guardian on phone from her base in the United States in the early hours of yesterday.

“I am worried not because of the 1-1 draw they played in the first leg in Abuja, but the absence of some key players from the Falcons squad. How come players like Onome Ebi, Francisca Ordega and Esther Sunday couldn’t report to camp for such a crucial game? We all played this game at the highest level, and I believe that a player like Ebi should have made herself available for this game, no matter the tight schedule with her club.

“The Olympics Games is every four years, and it will be too bad for the Falcons to miss out of Rio 2016 after failing to qualify for London 2012. The players are usually the major benefactors playing for their countries in such big games like the World Cup and Olympics. I pray they beat Equatorial Guinea on Sunday because we can’t afford to miss this ticket,” Omagbemi said.

The Super Falcons boxed themselves into a tight corner in Abuja two weeks ago, when they were forced to 1-1 draw by visiting Nzalang Nacional of Equatorial Guinea in the final qualifying game for Rio 2016 Olympics.

The Falcons failed to make it beyond the group stage at the just concluded FIFA Women’s World Cup in Canada, prompting the NFF to sack coach Edwin Okon.

But his assistant, Christopher Danjuma, who is leading the team on acting capacity, could only manage a 1-1 draw with the visitors in Abuja last week, raising fear in some quarters that the African champions (Falcons), might watch from home, when hostilities begin in Rio next year.

In the absence of some key players, including ‘injured’ Liverpool Ladies forward, Asisat Oshoala, Coach Danjuma left Abuja on Thursday with 18 others for the battle of Bata.

In the squad are Tochukwu Oluehi, Precious Dede, Evelyn Nwabuoku, Blessing Edoho, Osarenoma Igbinovia, Joy Jegede, Osinachi Ohale, Martina Ohadugha, Desire Oparanozie, Cecilia Nku, Sarah Nnodim, Ngozi Ebere, Amarachi Okoronkwo, Ngozi Okobi, Chioma Wogu, Mercy Amanze, Gladys Akpa and Chinaza Uchendu.

The Falcons progressed against Mali without kicking the ball, while Equatorial Guinea edged out Congo 7-0 on aggregate to reach this stage.

The battle of Bata is indeed a big worry for top officials of the NFF, considering the fierce rivalry that has cropped up between the two teams since the Nzalang Nacional conquered the Falcons on their way to lifting the AWC trophy on home soil in 2008.

It was the year Nigeria’s dominant role as the undisputed queen of African female football was brought to an end, when the Falcons were beaten 1-0 in the semifinal in Malabo.

The Nzalang Nacional has in their fold three Brazilians, seven Nigerians and some Camerounians, including Tobilola Windapo, goalkeeper Ruth Sunday, Uzoamaka Igwe and Aju Francisca.

While Coach Danjuma and the girls negotiate the tough bend in Bata, home of President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo tomorrow, Coach Samson Siasia and his U-23 squad equally have a tough battle in Pointe Noire, Congo.

NFF President Amaju Pinnick knows the big task in Bata and Pointe Noire tomorrow. He has charged the Falcons and the U-23 boys to do the nation proud by picking the tickets to next year’s Olympics.

Pinnick was at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport early on Thursday to receive the Falcons as they arrived Lagos, on their way to Bata. “The whole country is proud of what you have done in the past, winning seven AWC titles out of nine so far, and qualifying for the Olympics in 2000, 2004 and 2008.

“Your superiority on the African continent has never been in doubt. What is left is for us to take that capability to the global stage. The entire nation has faith in you to overcome in Equatorial Guinea and eventually qualify for the Olympics. On Sunday, Nigerians expect you to deliver as you have always done. A place in the final round of the qualifying race to the Olympics is certainly within your grasp.”

A confident Coach Danjuma has assured that the Falcons will take Sunday’s match as a battle that must be won. “The way it is, we have no choice but to fight and fight, because we must score goals. I want to assure Nigerians that my team is up to the task.”

Coach Siasia-led U-23 team will play their Congo-Brazzaville counterparts tomorrow in the final match of the qualifying race for the African U-23 Championship, where Africa’s representatives to next year’s Olympics will emerge.

Like Pinnick’s message to the Falcons, NFF 1st Vice President, Seyi Akinwunmi, equally charged the boys not to let the country down in Pointe Noire tomorrow. “We are fully aware of the fact that we are fighting two battles in one day. But they say that when the going gets tough, the tough gets going.

“Samson Siasia has been in this kind of situation several times and he has come out victorious. We believe in him and the team that he is taking to Pointe Noire,” he said.

Siasia’s boys hold a thin 2-1 advantage from the first leg in Port Harcourt, and know they have to battle against not only the host team, but several other forces as well.

The players that will be on parade for Nigeria tomorrow in Pointe Noire are Daniel Emmanuel, Atanda Sodiq, Stanley Amuzie, Azubuike Okechukwu, Olusegun Oduduwa, Erhun Obanor, Godwin Saviour, Etebo Oghenekaro, Junior Ajayi, Usman Mohammed, Etor Daniel, Yusuf Mohammed, Chima Akas, Semiu Liadi, Shehu Abdullahi, Kingsley Sokari, Taiwo Awoniyi, Umar Aminu, Austin Oladapo and Sincere Seth.

The landed at the Augustino Nero International Airport, Pointe-Noire at about 12.25pm local time (same time with Nigeria) on board an Ethiopian Airline flight, yesterday.

The Nigerian delegation led by the Chairman of NFF Technical and Development Committee, Felix Anyansi-Agwu, was received by the Consul-General of the Embassy of Nigeria, Brazzaville, Adamu Shuaibu Hamza, as well as the president of Nigeria community in Pointe-Noire, Ezenwabasili Egbuna.

Members of the Nigerian community in Congo have produced a T-shirts they specially made for the ‘battle’ of Pointe-Noire. The team was expected to train at about 5pm yesterday.



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