The U-20 Women's World Cup is upon us, but are the Falconets ready for the tournament in Canada?
By Samuel Ahmadu
Ahead of the Fifa Under-20 Women's World Cup in Canada, Goal assesses Nigeria's readiness, squad quality and the implications of the administrative crisis on the team.
Should Nigeria’s campaign end in disaster, it would be little surprise, especially considering the holes in preparation and the dark clouds over the country's football in recent weeks.
The above factors have, naturally, generated an aura of pessimism, the implications are still to be seen, but Nigerians believe they’re capable doing it the hard way.
Limited high-profile friendly games and a lack of exposure to European weather will certainly pose a great danger to Peter Dedevbo's squad. The team boast some talented individuals, but lack cohesion.
Ahead of the tournament, Goal sought the views of women football's stakeholders, ranging from an ex-international, a coach, an administrator and a Falconets' player, on the country's chances in Canada.
The Falconets in preparation in Canada
Yinka Kudaisi , a former Super Falcons central defender who played between 1991 to 2006, told Goal that the lack of Grade A warm-up games may affect the country's hopes of going far in Canada, despite the presence of certain positives.
"I think [poor preparation] will make it very difficult for the girls, but they just have to go there and try to make names for themselves despite the odds.
“During our days, we had two-three training tours of Europe, which helped us a lot. The problem with Nigeria [women football] is consistency. But if they can play like those of 2010, they will go far and even win the trophy.
"I'll also suggest the Federation give the players enough motivation too. I'll advise the coach to start the best and fit of his players in every match. I believe if they take each game as it comes, they will go far, even reach the finals and win it," she concluded.
However, the former Pelican Stars and Nasawara Amazons coach Obi Ogbala, said the lack of a training tour of Europe and the NFF’s well-documented crisis have had no negative affects on the performance of the Falconets in Canada, urging coach Dedevbo to parade his best legs in each game.
"Well, the team would have had better preparation if not for the [NFF crisis], but I have no doubt the team will perform well in Canada. Watching their performance in the qualifiers - I believe the girls will do well without the training tour of Europe.
“The crisis happened in 2010 and the team, surprisingly, got to the final," Ogbala told Goal.
"The bulk of the job will be on coach Dedevbo - he needs to get the players physically, psychologically and mentally fit for the tournament. I'll also suggest the Federation give the players enough motivation too.
“I'll advise the coach to start the best and fit of his players in every match. I believe if they take each game as it comes, they will go far, even reach the finals and win it," he concluded.
Falconets enjoying the good times in Germany 2010
In the same vein, the team manager of Rivers Angels and member of Nigeria Women League Board, Matilda Otuene, said the NFF crisis will not be enough to deter the Falconets, tasking the technical crew to work harder on the players' psyche.
"We have a good squad. I think the team should remain focus, not get distracted [by NFF situation] and go all out to do us proud in Canada.
“This is where the coach has to go extra mile on the players' psyche and get them ready for the tournament.
"I've seen the final squad and think we can better our last [Germany 2010] outing this time in Canada. Let us not write them off, we have to take it one game at a time. We have a chance with the girls in the
right frame of mind and focus on task ahead, we'll surely do well," she told Goal.
Finally, an experienced face in the Falconets, Asisat Oshoala, who starred at the last Under-20 Women's World Cup, told Goal that the lingering administrative crisis of the NFF would have no negative effect on their team performance in Canada, stressing that she and her teammates are fully prepared and ready to challenge any team.
"We are very ready to play our best at World Cup and also come out victorious. I've been at the tournament before, it's no new challenge for me - just like a normal competition,
“I'm sure my experience will count for me and the team. Not having any tour of Europe is nothing and won't affect us in anyway. Our lessons from the friendly matches with Ghana are good enough for us.
"The team is psychologically, mentally and physically prepared for the tournament. We don't have any problem, we love each other, and the coaches are trying to ensure good understanding without.
“We are not distracted at all by [the NFF crisis]. We have no business with the current administrative issues, as players, we job is to play well on the pitch and having nothing to do with the office," Oshoala explained.
The country's dream of making a big impact and surpassing its Germany 2010 runners-up feat remains possible, with positives to be found in the Nigerians’ prayers and patience.