Nigeria captain Onome Ebi believes the Super Falcons will be in the final of the 2022 Women’s Africa Cup of Nations as they bid to claim a record-extending 10th title at the tournament scheduled from July 2 in Morocco.
The experienced centre-back, who is gunning for her fifth continental title, feels Nigeria still have no equals ahead of their July 4 opener against South Africa before taking on Botswana three days later and finishing their group assignment with Burundi on July 10.
Ebi is particularly waiting for the meeting with Banyana Banyana after the South Africans handed Nigeria 1-0 loss in their opening game of the last edition in Ghana four years ago before Nigeria edged them out in the final to claim their ninth title.
“The last edition South Africa was our first opponent and we lost the game 1-0 but it helped us because we told ourselves this is a wakeup call for the team. We lost this game but we still have an opportunity to win the trophy and this time it is the same,” said Ebi.
“It is an opportunity to know our strengths against a very good team and to prepare us really well for the final because I believe we will be in the final. We will play our game but we are going for nothing but victory,” she added.
With Super Falcons coach Randy Waldrum more concerned about securing a ticket to the World Cup than winning the tournament, the veteran defender feels Nigeria should be aiming for both.
“We have been playing friendly games with good, tough teams and we are very prepared for this competition. We know how important this competition is because it is going to qualify us for the World Cup but we are going to retain our trophy,” she said.
“Lifting that trophy will be like a dream come true and being the 10th time will be something I will never forget in my career. It will not be easy as all teams are fighting to beat Nigeria but we are working extra hard to make sure it happens.”
With experienced players like Ebi, Asisat Oshoala and Ngozi Okobi in his squad, Waldrum has also added a number of youngsters whom the skipper believes will not be fazed by the occasion.
“Whoever has been called to the national team knows it is a responsibility. Somebody like Ashleigh [Plumptre] always plays by my side. I always tell her this is an opportunity for you to showcase yourself and have the feeling of the trophy that Nigeria has been lifting for a long time so they understand the assignment and I feel they are ready,” she added.
Nigeria, who have won the last three editions (2014, 2016 and 2018), are tipped to claim a fourth in a row and 10th overall even though South Africa and Cameroon are likely to give them a run for their money.
The biennial tournament also serves as a World Cup qualifier for next year’s tournament in Australia and New Zealand where the top four teams directly seal their ticket while two more advance to the inter-confederation playoffs.