‘After many years, Falcons’ attack has not changed’

FalconsFor over a decade, US-based ex-Super Falcons defender, Florence Ovigwe Iweta, played a key role in the women national side, providing cover for the team in major competitions. She guided the Falcons to two FIFA World Cup appearances in 1999 and 2003. She also led the team to win the African Women Championship (AWC) on three occasions in 2000, 2002 and 2004. She also featured at Sydney 2000 Olympic Games soccer event for the Falcons.

But one major worry for Iweta, even from her days with the team till now, has been the attack formation, which, according to her, has remained the same over the years.

“It has been this same story of poor attack at the World Cup, even when we were playing,” Iweta told The Guardian after the Falcons were sent packing from the on-going Canada 2015 World Cup.

“It is so sad, especially after the team raised our hope by coming from behind to draw 3-3 with Sweden in their first group match. I thought the team had improved, especially in the attack, but I was so disappointed to see the girls just looping the ball forward without mobility and fighting spirit upfront.

“To beat a team like the USA, I expected the Falcons to walk their way into the 18-yard box and shoot the ball. I didn’t really see much of that in their last two games against Australia and USA. It means the Falcons still have a long way to go in the World Cup.”

Iweta was barely a year in football when she played her way into the national team in preparation for USA 99 World Cup. Her aggressive nature as a defender earned her a place in Coach Ismalia Mabo’s team for the World Cup, where she featured alongside Ann Chiejine, Yinka Kudaisi, Rita Nwadike, Prisca Emeafu, Nkiru Okosieme, Florence Omagbemi, Nkechi Egbe, Patience Avre, Mercy Akide, Ifeanyi Chiejine, Adanna Nwaneri, Kikelomo Ajayi, Stella Mbachu, Marvis Ogun and Maureen Madu, among others. .

As a defender, Iweta’s duty was to provide adequate cover for goalkeeper Chiejine, but most times, the Urhobo-born defender found herself combining her role with that of the attackers, due to ‘poor’ finishing upfront. And she delivered most times. Iweta came from the defence to score seven for the Falcons in her days. She was on target for Nigeria, when the Falcons defeated Mali 5-1 during the third AWC held in Warri and Oghara, Delta State in 2002. She also played a role in Falcons’ victory against Ghana Black Queens in their 2-0 victory in the final of the fifth edition of the AWC in 2006, also at the Warri Stadium, where she gave that ‘tailor’ pass for Effioanwan Ekpo to score their second goal. The team’s performance under Iweta and co and USA ‘99 World Cup, where they reached the second round, remains their best outing till date.

As the Falcons were struggling for survival in Group D in the yet-to-be-concluded FIFA World Cup in Canada, Iweta was lamenting all alone in her base in USA. “I thought things have changed,” she told The Guardian in a telephone chat. “I can’t really point out the transformation in this present Super Falcons from what it used to be in the past.

“I agree new players have to come into the team, but it seems the attack has not improved. If Nigeria must make its impact in the World Cup or at the Olympic Games, our attack has to be sharper than what it is now. I am not passing a verdict on the players and their technical crew, but I think they have to do more in the attack. Football has gone beyond this system of just passing the ball around the centre circle. There must be good ball control, good use of space and width. There must be that cohesion between the midfield, wing play and the finishers. We can’t continue to make up the numbers at every major competition at the senior level after doing well at the youth and junior World Cup,” Iweta stated.

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