Technical blunders bane of Super Falcons
Before their second group game at the Winnipeg Stadium on Friday, Super Falcons’ Coach, Edwin Okon, had boasted that no matter what happened on the pitch, his team would take Australia to the cleaners. Apart from declaring that he had the best set of players capable of winning the on-going FIFA Women’s World Cup, Okon also said that Angels in Heaven would always support a Nigerian team against any opponent because Nigerians are more religious than people in other parts of the World.
It was a world press conference in preparation for the game, and Okon’s declaration that God is closer to Nigeria than people from other parts of the globe did not go down well with some Australian journalists at the venue. It became an issue.
While Okon was doing his calculation and pre-match analysis on ‘drawing board’ and banking on Angels in Haven to win the game for Nigeria, his Australian counterpart, Coach Alen Stajcic and his players were busy carrying out studies on Super Falcons’ pattern of play.
“Before the commencement of this World Cup, we didn’t know much about your team (Super Falcons), but after they forced Sweden to 3-3 draw in the first game, we decided to watch some video clips of their past games,” Australia defender, Elise Kellond-Knight, told The Guardian at the Mixed Zone, shortly after beating Falcons 2-0.
Kellond-Knight, who plays for Brisbane Roar FC in her country, said beating the Super Falcons in Friday’s game was one of the easiest matches for them. “While watching the video clips of past matches played by the Falcons, we observed that your country operates one pattern of play in big games. We saw that the coach lines his four strikers upfront. So, when we came into the pitch and saw that your coach parading the same line up, which he used against Sweden, we told ourselves that the job is half done. Our coach saw it and signalled to us to make sure we cut off your four strikers. We did just that and I am happy we got a clean sheet against Nigeria,” she said.
The Aussies lost their first game 3-1 to USA, while the Falcons battled a 3-3 with Sweden to raise expectations of Nigerians that something good might come from Okon and his girls. But on Friday, the Falcons were the poorest in all departments of the game against Australia, falling 0-2 on a day Sweden and USA played goalless.
With the poor result, Okon and his girls might have to declare three days of dry fasting and prayer to see their dream of breaking the 16-year-old jinx in the World Cup. They departed their Hilton Hotel in Winnipeg Saturday morning for Vancouver, where they will face the American challenge tomorrow in their last group game.
For some officials of the team and Nigerian residents here in Canada, the Falcons boxed themselves into a tight corner in this World Cup due to poor technical ability of the head coach, Okon.
As the match against Australia was going on Friday, some of the team officials and members of the make-shift supporters club, who came all the way from Toronto, were gnashing their teeth in agony.
Pained by the defeat, a member of the team opened up in a chat with The Guardian shortly before they left Winnipeg Stadium for their hotel saying: “To me, we lost this game due to pure technical blunder. Majority of our players are being played in wrong positions, and we have complained severally to the coach about it, but he won’t listen.
“We know the capacity of the players and what they are capable of doing in tight situations like this. A player like Asisat Oshoala gets tired so easily and the coach knows. We had told him severally not to allow Oshoala run the lines. She is very skillful one-on-one with the opponent, and a coach who knows what he is doing should allow such player to operate in the heart of the attack. She has no business burning her little energy running the lines. It’s wrong. Right from the U-20 level, Oshoala had been operating as back up to the attack, but not from the wings.
“Again, look at a player like Francisca Ordega. The Australian girl she was marking was taller. Ordega couldn’t win up balls because of the taller opponent and she couldn’t stretch her legs to win balls on the ground. In that situation, we expected our coach to move Ordega to another wing to see if should could operate freely. That didn’t happen.
“To me, some of the changes we made were faulty. When Perpetua Nkwocha came in for Desire Okparanozie in the second half, some of us who knew the ability of Asisat Oshoala were expecting the coach to move her from the line to team up with Perpetua in the attack. Before we knew what was happening, our coach pulled out Oshoala, the only tall player upfront for Courtney Dike. It was at that point I knew we had lost the match. I am not the coach, but sincerely speaking, there are so many things going wrong technically in this team. I pray we get it right against USA on Tuesday because crashing out in the group stage will be painful,” the official said.
Meanwhile, board member of NFF and chairperson of Women Football Committee, Mrs. Dilichukwu Onyedinma, has expressed her sadness over the inability of the Falcons to get a point in the game against Australia on Friday, despite getting good financial motivation from NFF.
“I am very sad over this defeat,” Dilichukwu told The Guardian before they departed Winnipeg for Vancouver. After we came from behind twice to play 3-3 against Sweden in the first game, I pleaded with our President (Amaju Pinnick) to pay them a full winning bonus, and he agreed immediately. We did that to boost their morale ahead the game against Australia. Amaju watched that first game and he was impressed with the girls’ fighting spirit. He had also promised to return to Vancouver after the Super Eagles’ Nations Cup qualifying game against Chad.
“To show that the NFF was solidly behind the team, Dr. Emmanuel Ikpeme came from Nigeria two days ago. He was
with them even at training. Look at the way they have messed up the situation now. I am very sad about it. My
prayer is that we beat USA in Tuesday’s game. It will be too bad for us to crash out at group stage once again. Look at what Cameroun is doing. They have three points already despite losing 1-2 to the defending champions, Japan, in
their second game. We have participated in every edition of the World Cup and Cameroun is just coming up. With their three points, Cameroun stands a chance of qualifying as one of the best losers, that is, if they lost their last group match. We will continue to encourage them and I believe we can beat USA on Tuesday,” Dilichukwu said.