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Can the Super Falcons avenge Awcon opening defeat by Banyana?

5:46 PM GMT+4 30/11/2018
Super Falcons - Awcon 2018
The Super Falcons are looking to retain their title, but must avoid back-to-back defeats by Banyana Banyana

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Nigeria and South Africa will rekindle their rivalry as they go toe-to-toe in the race for the Africa Women Cup of Nations title in Accra on Saturday.

The Super Falcons and Banyana Banyana have long been at each others' throats in pursuit of prominence in the women's game, but approach this game with very different track records behind them.

Nigeria are seeking a record title after dominating the tournament, and are looking to make it three in a row after successes in 2014 and 2016.

South Africa, by contrast,  are chasing their first continental honour, having finished as runners-up four times in their history.

Falcons are the undisputed queens of Africa, but the current generation haven't looked quite as rampant. Indeed, they were defeated 1-0 by South Africa in their tournament, and the prospect of a repeat surely looms.

Thomas Dennerby faced questions about the inability of his strikers to convert their chances after that match, with Africa Women Player of the Year Asisat Oshoala, Desire Oparanozie and Francisca Ordega all firing blanks.

His other decisions were also queried. 

Despite being aware of Banyana's athleticism, pace and counter-attacking threat, he favoured Rasheedat Ajibade ahead of 2015 Women's World Cup MVP Ngozi Okobi, even though the latter would have offered precise and penetrating passes to the attack.

Following the loss to South Africa, Dennerby has rang the changes in his team to bring more stability, with Okobi regaining her starting role in the last three games.

Nigeria duly improved significantly.

New right-back Josephine Chukwunonye has been a revelation with her strong running, and Nigeria's task has been made easier by the fact that forward Refiloe Jane has returned to Canberra United.

Nigeria's front three are also finding form, and that attacking bite at the business end of Dennerby's 4-4-2 formation should cause Desiree Ellis's Banyana considerable trouble.

He'll likely stick with the same team that combatted the physical Cameroon team in the semi, where they also demonstrated thieir ability to soak up pressure and press high.

Perhaps the Falcons may struggle to dominate possession against South Africa, but they have enough quality at either end of the pitch to avenge their opening defeat.

Certainly, they'll be confident that they can repeat Nigeria's bounce-back in 2002, when they were defeated by Ghana in the group stage before beating them 2-0 in the final in Warri.

Nonetheless, Nigeria must be wary of the fact that Banyana Banyana are going into the contest with momentum after securing their first World Cup qualification.  

Having defeated Nigeria for the first time since 2012, Ellis will be anxious to end the country's search for an African title as they face the Falcons in the final for the first time since losing 2-0 on home soil in 2000. 

Banyana may have few better chances to win their first continental title, particularly against a Nigeria team whose vulnerabilities have been exposed recently.

However, ultimately, advantage has to go to Nigeria...and not just because of the double-winning bonuses worth $10,000 for the final.

They had a rough start, but after recovering fully from their opener, the quest to readdress their opening loss and pay the Cosafa Women's Cup Champions back will be their top priority.

As the saying goes, lightning never strikes the same place twice; it's up to the Super Falcons to prove that's the case!