Cape Town - As the African Women’s Cup of Nations (AWCON) begins on Saturday, IOL sport takes a look at Nigeria.
Nickname: Super Falcons
FIFA Ranking: 39
How they qualified:
The defending champions escaped an early exit thanks to a nervy 2-1 aggregate win over arch-rivals Ghana despite suffering a 1-0 defeat in Accra, which was their first-ever loss in the qualifier's history. On surviving the Black Queens' scare, they completed a double over Ivory Coast with a 3-0 aggregate win to keep a fourth consecutive and 10th title dream alive.
Qualifying results, first round: Nigeria 2-0 Ghana
Second round: Nigeria 2-0 Ivory Coast
The Super Falcons began their preparations with a high-profile two-match international friendly with Olympic champions Canada. They lost 2-0 in the first match in Vancouver before surrendering their lead twice to draw 2-2 in the second leg three days later in Victoria City. They are scheduled to have a camp in June in Morocco where they are likely to wrap up their build-up with a match against the Atlas Lionesses.
Coach: Randy Waldrum
The experienced American tactician accepted the offer to replace Swede Thomas Dennerby in 2020, three years after he missed out on the offer. Despite losing to Ghana, Waldrum guided the Super Falcons past their biggest West African foes - Ghana and Ivory Coast to the 12th finals, where he will hope to steer the team to a 10th continental crown and the Fifa Women's World Cup qualification
Oshoala enters the WAFCON as one of the top-scoring players from Africa abroad, scoring 19 goals in 16 outings for Barcelona. The 27-year-old made a mark at the 2014 and 2016 editions, where she won the Best Player and top-scorer of the tournament respectively. The reigning and four-time African Women’s Footballer of the Year will be anxious to maintain her huge reputation by replicating her fine form at the new 12-nation tournament.
The 38-year-old is the longest-serving Super Falcons player, with six previous WAFCON appearances and four titles for the West Africans. At Ghana 2018, she co-captained the team to a record ninth title and this time, the veteran centre-back has been handed the captaincy role for Morocco 2022 campaign. Ebi holds an African record with a fifth Women's World Cup outing and she will aim to lead Nigeria to a record 10th crown in her seventh appearance.
Kanu inspired the Super Falcons to the 2019 WAFU B Women's Cup triumph, scoring 10 goals in five games. During the qualifiers, she was influential as her brace was all Nigeria required to squeeze past Ghana.
The 2019 African Women's Player of the Year nominee excelled in Sweden, scoring 22 goals in 42 games for Linkopings in 2021 before moving to Mexico. In just 14 games in Liga MX, the 24-year-old has scored 10 goals, including hat-tricks twice for Tigres UNAL. Her good run of form will no doubt improve the already studded attack ranks of the team during the expanded women's competition.