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Africa Women Cup of Nations

Super Falcons start AWCON defence on disappointing note

5:33 PM GMT 19/11/2018
Super Falcons
The 10-time champions were at sixes and sevens in Cape Coast on Sunday and don’t look like a side hungry for more success

COMMENT 

It’s not rocket science why Nigeria are the outright favourites to win the 2018 Africa Women Cup of Nations in Ghana, not least because they've won all but two of the previous 12 editions of the tournament. 

However, the record AWCON champions started their quest for an 11th crown on a sour note after losing 1-0 to South Africa in their Group B opener at the Cape Coast Stadium on Sunday.

It came as a shock because the Super Falcons had never before lost their AWCON opener.

Thomas Dennerby’s ladies only have themselves to blame in what was a terrible performance where they offered very little threat.

Though the Nigerians started brightly, having more of the ball, they could not make any good use of it, often wasting possession and shooting aimlessly from distance.

Asisat Oshoala was the Falcons' only bright spark and she had two opportunities where she could have put the ball into the back of the net but she decided to pass to her teammates and the chances went begging.

With the game deadlocked at halftime, the South Africans raised the tempo and heaped more pressure on Nigeria in the second half. They would get their reward with five minutes left on the clock after substitute Thembi Kgatlana volleyed home a powerful shot past Tochukwu Oluehi.

Desiree Ellis’ ladies were close to making it 2-0 in injury time, but Oluehi had to be alert to prevent more damage from been inflicted.

The damage was ultimately done, and there’s a lot of rethinking for Dennerby to do with his team as they were simply appalling to watch.

There was no desire, determination or intent from the Nigerian women. Nor was there any urgency to respond to South Africa’s threat in the second half even after they had scored. It was as though they were just there for the fun of it and the result of it was that they duly got what they deserved.

It is very disappointing that a side that had some of women’s biggest names in Africa in the likes of Oshoala, Rasheedat Ajibade, Francisca Ordega, Desire Oparanozie and captain Rita Chikwelu could not make anything happen, with the team failing to have a single shot on target.

It then begs to ask, what exactly was Nigeria’s motivation?

Were they too confident that they would get it all done thanks to their dominant record in AWCON, or were they just not prepared for the game?

Whatever reason it is, they need to raise their game in their next encounter with Zambia who demolished Equatorial Guinea 5-0 in the other Group B match on Sunday.

It’s a clear warning that the Falcons need to put their AWCON pride aside and face the reality that other teams are ready for them, a statement which Zambia's Woman of the Match Rachel Kundanaji made in the post-match press conference.

“Nigeria, here we come, just like a wounded buffalo,” she said. “This time we have come for something...this is not the old Zambia, this is the new Zambia.”

It definitely hurts opposition to see Nigeria gain a foothold of the Africa Women Cup of Nations, and the rest of the teams will be watching on and hoping the Falcons' downfall can continue.

All that is left is for Dennerby and his squad to realise what went wrong against South Africa and to respond. If not, the West Africans could be set for a rude awakening.