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SABASTINE'S FLOURISH AND OTHER OBSERVATIONS FROM FALCONETS 1-0 WIN OVER FRANCE

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After the crushing disappointment of Randy Waldrum’s poorly-coached Super Falcons at the 2022 Women Africa Cup of Nations, football fans were looking up to the Falconets to restore some measure of respect back to the name at the FIFA Under 20 World Cup.


Hopes may be one thing, expectations are quite another. So, despite those hope, not many expected them to do too well against European champions France. 


Which would explain why not many Nigerians stayed up at the ungodly midnight hour that it was in Nigeria, to watch the next iteration of Super Falcons open their World Cup campaign.


But Christopher Danjuma’s girls were not to be discouraged, and completely dominated and outclassed the bigger, more physical French players in the opening 20 minutes under torrential rain.


The downpour forced the game to be suspended, and on resumption, they appeared to have lost some of their steam, the French looking marginally better in the second half of the first half.


Still, Flourish Sabastine’s well-placed goal late in the game sealed a well-earned win and three points for the Nigerian girls. More than that, their disciplined tactical play was a marked improvement from the dross Nigerians were served at WAFCON.


So what did we take away from their heartening win? Here goes


THIS IS HOW WE PLAY

Watching the Falconets play out with confidence from the back, passing the ball crisply, playing as a team, making good runs, using space and just generally making good decisions overall, reminded Nigerians exactly why they fell in love with the original Super Falcons in the first place.

Yess, the team made some basic errors and some of their decision-making, especially in the final third could have been better. But their foundations looked good, and it was clear that they were trying to play the right way. Always looking to find the open player, never ball hogging, quick, energetic and disciplined, esspecially in defence.

France, as good as they were, did not present any real threat in open play, Their most dangerous opportunities only came from corner kicks. Which takes us nicely into point 2


SET PIECE DEFENDING AND GOALKEEPING MUST IMPROVE

Almost everything the girls did was superb. The one area where they had issues was in defending set pieces, especially those lateral balls from cornerkicks. Goalkeeper Oyono Omini was having troubling dealing with crosses, flapping away at them with troubling regularity. That included one occasion when her misjudgement saw the ball bundled in by substitute Jade Nassi. Thankfully, that was chalked off - with the aid of VAR - for a foul on Omini, but the worries remain.

If the Falconets, two-time runners up, are to match and even exceed their previous results by winning the whole shebang, they will need improved showings from Omini. Or a replacement.



FLOURISH LEADS CAST OF IMPRESSIVE STARS

What a joy it was to watch Flourish Sabastine, and not just for her goal. All game long, her energy, positive attitude, fearless ability to take players on and skill on the ball marked her out as one to make a difference which she eventually did with a controlled precise finish.

But she was not alone. Skipper Oluwatosin Demehin showed why she earned an invitation to the senior squad, defending with composure, unyielding in her strength, quick to the ball and smart in making her reads of dangerous plays.

And in midfield, Esther Onyenezide showed she could be as smooth an operator as any.

Mercy Idoko’s vision to pick out Sabastine for that flourishing finish was just as worthy of commendation as any. And one needs to keep an eye on left back Rofiat Imuran

D Pundit's Super Betting tips for EPL Match Day 2

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- By Godwin Odiko

Last weekend, we witnessed so many shocking results but I still got five match outcomes correctly including the score-line of the match involving Newcastle and Nottingham Forest. So, which team is on course to produce a shocking result this weekend in the Premier League? 

Read on to find out


Aston Villa vs Everton

I was very disappointed with Aston Villa last weekend as I expected them to at least get a point at newly-promoted Bournemouth. But they went on to lose the game 2-0.

I think they will struggle here again against Everton. Frank Lampard's men are not also convincing but they have got more quality and I think they will get something from this clash. 

So, I am going to go for a draw here. But if the game goes on to produce a winner then it will be Everton 

Godwin d Pundit's correct score prediction: Aston Villa 1-1 Everton



Manchester City vs Bournemouth

I am going to go for an Erling Haaland hat-trick here. This will be Manchester City's first home game and they will be looking to produce a spectacular performance and I expect the Norwegian striker to really flourish in this game.

I will be surprised if Bournemouth are still in this game at halftime. Therefore I am going for a 5-0 win for Pep Guardiola's men which should propel  them to the top of the table.

Godwin d Pundit's correct score prediction: Manchester City 5-0 Bournemouth


Arsenal vs Leicester City

Arsenal have won the last three meetings between these two sides and I think they will win here again on Saturday.

Leicester have still not brought in any player to add quality to their squad and I think they will struggle this season if they end up not signing any player before the transfer window closes.

Having said that, I am back the Gunners to win here, albeit; a very slim victory.

Godwin d Pundit's correct score prediction: Arsenal 2-1 Leicester City


Wolves vs Fulham

I thought Fulham were very impressive last weekend against Liverpool. If they can replicate the same performance here they will defeat Wolves.

If Aleksandar Mitrović's performance against Liverpool is anything to go by, then Wolves are in for some trouble in this one.

I am going to go for a draw here as I really fancy Fulham getting something out of this clash.

Godwin d Pundit's correct score prediction: Wolves 1-1 Fulham


Southampton vs Leeds United

Southampton will really need to produce an extraordinary performance to win here as I see Leeds United as clear favorites.

Jesse Marsch's men will be looking to consolidate on their victory against Wolves last weekend and I really do not see this poor Southampton side stopping them. 

I am going to back Leeds United to win here but I think it's going to be a tough victory for them considering the fact that they are playing away from home.

Godwin d Pundit's correct score prediction: Southampton 0-1 Leeds United


Brighton vs Newcastle

I am struggling to really separate these two clubs as I am really impressed with their performance last weekend. Brighton went to Manchester United last weekend and completely outclassed them. They will be looking to build on that performance here.

Newcastle were also very impressive against Nottingham Forest last weekend and they will be looking to continue in that vein of form.

I am really struggling to pick a winner here to be very sincere so I will just bank on this one to end in a draw.

Godwin d Pundit's correct score prediction: Brighton 2-2 Newcastle


Brentford vs Manchester United

Manchester United will be looking to appease their fans for what was a very embarrassing defeat at home to Brighton last weekend. Anything other than a Manchester United win here is unacceptable to the fans.

However, Brentford are no pushovers and they will also be looking to cause Erik Ten Hag's men more trouble on their turf. But I think the Red Devils should be able to win this one. I just can't see Manchester United coming out of this clash with any result other than victory.

Godwin d Pundit's correct score prediction: Brentford 1-2 Manchester United


Nottingham Forest vs West Ham

West Ham have got more quality than Nottingham Forest and I think if they really show their quality here they will win. Nottingham Forest are newbies and will need time to fully acclimatize to the rigours of the Premier League. I think Nottingham Forest will struggle here against David Moyes' men. So, I am backing the Hammers to take all three points from this encounter.

Godwin d Pundit's correct score prediction: Nottingham Forest 0-2 West Ham


Chelsea vs Tottenham

This is unarguably the biggest fixture of the weekend. Tottenham have shown so far in the transfer window that they really mean business and they also put up a commanding display in their opening fixture against Southampton last weekend. They will be looking to build on that performance here and try to get something out of this clash.

Meanwhile, Chelsea weren't really convincing against Everton last weekend despite winning the game 1-0. So, if they are not careful in this game they might lose to Antonio Conte's men.

However, I think this one will end in a very entertaining draw as I see both teams finding the back of each other's net.

Godwin d Pundit's correct score prediction: Chelsea 2-2 Tottenham


Liverpool vs Crystal Palace

If Liverpool really want to contend with Manchester City for the title this season then they should be winning this sort of match. They dropped two points against newly promoted promoted Fulham last weekend, they just can't afford to drop any point in this game.

Crystal Palace will try to make things difficult for Liverpool but I think the quality of Jurgen Klopp's men will be too much for the Eagles to handle.

Godwin d Pundit's correct score prediction: Liverpool 2-0 Crystal Palace


D’Pundit Picks for EPL MatchDay 1

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Football is back! The wait is finally over. I will be dishing out weekly predictions on all the matches to be played in the EPL this season. So, join me on the ride. 

Which teams will win their first EPL games this season? Read up my predictions to find out

Crystal Palace vs Arsenal

Crystal Palace took four points from this fixture over two legs last season and they will be raring to continue in that vein of form this season.

Crystal Palace under Patrick Vieira have been very impressive and I see them finishing well again this season. However, I expect Mikel Arteta's men to give us the viewers a real spectacle on Friday night. Judging from Arsenal's pre-season performance, they should impress this season but I still can't put my money on them finishing in the top four this season.

I will bank on the game to end in a draw as I am struggling to find a winner here.

Godwin d Pundit's correct score prediction: Crystal Palace 1-1 Arsenal


Fulham vs Liverpool

Liverpool layed down a marker with their Community Shield triumph over Manchester City and I am going to back them to win the league this season.

Fulham on their part will struggle again playing topflight football and they will also struggle to withstand Jurgen Klopp's men on Saturday. So it's a comfortable Liverpool win for me. infact, I will be surprised if Fulham are still in the game at halftime.

Godwin d Pundit's correct score prediction: Fulham 0-3 Liverpool


Tottenham vs Southampton

Tottenham have really done well on the transfer market so far, but it remains to be seen if they will replicate their impressive transfer dealings on the field of play.

Southampton were lucky not to be relegated last season and I think they will still struggle this season. 

I think Tottenham will have too much for Ralph Hasenhüttl's men.

Godwin d Pundit's correct score prediction: Tottenham 2-0 Southampton


Leeds United vs Wolves

This two sides are at their very best a midtable team. But I think this game will be entertaining on Saturday with both teams looking to lay down a marker. However, I think Wolves should be able to get something here so I am going for a draw.

Godwin d Pundit's correct score prediction: Leeds United 1-1 Wolves


Bournemouth vs Aston Villa

Aston Villa look very inspiring under Steven Gerrard and I think they will get something out of this clash.

Bournemouth will struggle in the league this season and I see them returning back to the Championship at the end of the season.

I am just going to back Aston Villa to win here, albeit very slim one.

Godwin d Pundit's correct score prediction: Bournemouth 1-2 Aston Villa


Newcastle vs Nottingham Forest

I won't be surprised if Newcastle finish in the top six this season. They have a wealthy owner these days and they have looked very ambitious. They are chasing Leicester City's James Maddison. If they can get him, I think that will really improve their quality.

Nottingham Forest on their part were very impressive in the championship last season but it remains to be seen if they can also impress playing topflight football this season.

I am just going to stick with Newcastle to win on their turf with the backing of their fans.

Godwin d Pundit's correct score prediction: Newcastle 2-0 Nottingham Forest


Everton vs Chelsea

I think Chelsea should be able to win this one. if the Blues want to finish in the top four this season, then they should be winning this sort of matches. However, I expect Frank Lampard's Everton side to trouble Chelsea but still Thomas Tuchel's men should be able to edge this encounter.

Godwin d Pundit's correct score prediction: Everton 1-2 Chelsea


Manchester United vs Brighton

Just like I said about Chelsea, if Manchester United want to finish in the top four this season then they should be winning this sort of match. However, Brighton are no pushovers and should give Erik Ten Hag's men lot of problem on Sunday.

The Red Devils impressed in pre-season and I think if they replicate same form here they should be able to win this one. I am going for a Manchester United win here in front of their fans but it's going to be a very tight game.

Godwin d Pundit's correct score prediction: Manchester United 2-1 Brighton


Leicester City vs Brentford

So far, Leicester City remains the only side to have not bring in any new face ahead of the new season. Do I think they can finish as high as eighth as they finished last season? No. They will need to reinforce their squad if they wish to finish anywhere close to where they finished last season.

Brentford really impressed last season and I am backing them to get something from this clash. Therefore, I am going for a draw.

Godwin d Pundit's correct score prediction: Leicester City 1-1 Brentford

West Ham vs Manchester City

Pep Guardiola's men will be looking to retain the title this season. But they need to show their quality here if they desire a win in this clash. They were very unappealing against Liverpool in the Community Shield and will need to step up their performance here to get the maximum points.

West Ham can be very difficult to play against on their day and City will be hoping it's not West Ham's day on Sunday.

I am going for a Manchester City win here but it going to be a very slim one.

Godwin d Pundit's correct score prediction: West Ham 0-1 Manchester City



Vengeful Lionesses Tamed and Nigeria's 'La Decima' Quest Continues

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It was meant to be a belle party experience but turned out a gritty, feisty feast of stop-starts in, perhaps, the most-anticipated clash of the Morocco 2022 CAF Women's African Cup of Nations.


A well-recycled ball by Gotham FC's Ifeoma Onumonu was plunged into the back of the Cameroonian net with Ange Bawou caught napping on her near side by a perfectly placed header from the blue-haired Rasheedat Ajibade, and that was all she wrote as the champions, Nigeria women's national team continued the defence of the title last won on Ghanaian soil four years ago.


The win takes the Super Falcons into the semis where they will play against a Moroccan side that has earned the right to be tagged a formidable opponent.


Before Monday's semifinal showdown with the host, let's check out some of the talking points from the 1-0 win of Nigeria over the Indomitable Lionesses.



Rasheedat Ajibade, a Contender for the MVP 


This is becoming her tournament, and oh my, she's wearing every game like a well-made dinner dress.


Her goal, from the team's only shot on target on the night, is why Nigeria will play Down Under next year when Australia and New Zealand host the FIFA Women's World Cup.


Called RASH, the Atletico de Madrid player has come through the ranks from the juvenile levels to becoming a mainstay in the best team on the continent. 


Although she's won the WAFCON, a 2018 feat, she's definitely hungry for more and that shows in every game she's played in in Morocco.


The 22-year-old gave a WOTM performance against Cameroon with her tenacious contributions across the forward line, and throughout this competition has been a tricky customer for her markers. 


With three goals and two assists, she's the lead scorer of this tourney alongside Morocco's captain, Ghizlane Chebbak, who has two WOTM awards to her name. Both will face off on Monday and their individual performances will surely be an exciting sub-plot of the battle ahead.



Super Falcons Must Make the Most of Set Plays


Times have changed. Big scorelines have thinned out. Women's football has grown and the days when the Falcons handed out heavy defeats to their opponents are long gone. But the team boasts of quality, grounded players that will always trouble oppositions. They'll always create chances and force teams to commit corners and free kicks in dangerous areas. So, they must readapt to taking advantage of these set pieces.


Aside from the penalty kick goal by Ajibade against Burundi and a Christy Ucheibe hearder off a corner, Nigeria has had a plethora of these opportunities but failed to turn a lot into goals.


Eight goals in four games make for an average of two per game. Not a bad return in these times but can be much better if set plays are harnessed. 





Who Won the Battle of the Midfield?


My post match tag for this game is Battle of the Midfield. And neither Cameroon nor Nigeria won. This rivalry historically dates back to when this championship started in 1991. It has metamorphosed into a tight and conservative contest. This particular one was hard sore, draining and left the players leaving their hearts on the field. Didn't expect less as there were so much at stake.


Cameroon's five-person midfield set-up and three for their West African foes made the encounter not pretty for viewing, had plenty of play disruptions, aerial and ground duels ended in fouls and cautions. No way this game could have produced more than a goal.


Matter of fact, it took a moment of sweet dribbling skill from Ngozi Okobi-Okeoghene, out-of-position precise cross from Onumonu and a well-struck header by Ajibade for both teams to be separated by the odd margin. Other than that, this fixture was destined for a penalty shootout. 



#GoingFor10 Alive and Running


It's been an arduous journey so far for the African champions. They've played Africa's top teams - Ghana and Cote d'Ivore in the qualifiers, South Africa and Cameroon at the tournament. A few bumps here and there but 'La Decima' dream is still hale and hearty.


Nigeria went into Morocco 2022 on the back of a social media campaign #GoingFor10, asking for support as they bid to win a 10th WAFCON crown. 


As the final whistle blew and history repeated, Nigeria sealed a ninth consecutive ticket to the FIFA WWC. At the end of this championship, this might be the sweetest achievement for Nigeria considering the fact that they are Africa's best and have another chance to equalling their best outing at the World Cup - a quarterfinal in 1999 - or do better.


The team's third oldest player in Morocco at 34, Rita Chikwelu, winner of two African titles, couldn't hold back tears with the Nigerian flag on her shoulders after the win against Cameroon. Going to the World Cup next year could be her swan song to wrap up a decorated career that started in 2007. 



Kudos to Cameroon; WC Hope Still Alive


“We will do everything to win this match” was what Cameroon coach, Gabriel Zabo said before the game. And he did have a plan to make that happen - resolute defending, stiffle the Nigerians when in possession and hit them on the transition. 


Led by Estelle Johnson in the defence, the Lionesses limited the Falcons to just one shot on target (proved to be the difference though) and just four corners. Nigeria's frontline personnel were reduced to constantly changing positions due to Cameroon's great man-marking capacity.


The journey back home will be a long, reflective one but this effort in futility doesn't mean they're out of the chase for a world cup ticket. There's a glimmer of hope - a playoff match and a path to the FIFA WWC through the extended playoff process.

Super Falcons Player Ratings after 1-0 win over Cameroon

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Nigeria qualified for the semifinals and also secured a spot at next year's FIFA Women’s World Cup finals and here's how Rotimi Akindele rated the players in the quarter final win over rivals Cameroon.


Chiamaka Nnadozie, 7

Cool, calm and collected as always. Helped in making the defense pay attention to little details, was never really troubled and was solid enough to register her third straight clean sheet in the competition


Toni Payne, 6

Played as a make-shift right back before she switched to the left towards the latter stages of the game. Was pretty decent in the position especially with her pace and solid clearances. One of the versatiles in the team


Osinachi Ohale, 6

Had another decent game in the center half and would be proud to have helped register another clean sheet


Onome Ebi

Definitely marching on with her experience. Made some vital touches and intercepted a lot aerially. She won't be so bothered about getting into the referee's book


Asleigh Plumptre, 6

Played in a position where she is still trying to adapt but had put in a good shift before she was replaced in the second half


Halimat Ayinde, 7

Steady midfield performance. Easily breaks opponents play and has an eye to launch good passes towards the attack. One of Nigeria's best performers on the night


Ngozi Okobi-Okeoghene, 8

Proving to be a midfield maestro. She was solid all through as she helped the attack and the defense during the entire game. Made the strong brilliant move that led to the only goal of the game. It was an MVP performance but she didn't get the award post game and we all knew why…


Rasheedat Ajibade, 8


Got Nigeria's only goal of the night. Proving to be an asset to the team since day 1 especially since Oshoala's injury. Was well positioned for the winning goal and read the ball nicely. Helped with defense as well whenever she's not driving the attack. She was voted the Woman of the Match post game


Ifeoma Onumonu, 6

Still struggling to lead the pack but her all round presence is commendable. She delivered the pin-point cross that found Ajibade for the only goal. She's got to find the back of the net often to boost her confidence


Christy Ucheibe, 6

Average performance in the midfield, good enough to help the team grind out the win


Francisca Ordega, 5

After some early incursions in the first half, she was lost for the better part of the game especially as she struggled to really hold down her own from the wings



Subs

Michelle Alozie, 6

Came in to help the defense and did well for over 25 minutes. A good asset


Uchenna Kanu, 4

Did little after being brought on


Rita Chikwelu, 5

Brought in the needed experience to calm some nerves late on


Regina Otu, 4

Did little or nothing within the short time


Gift Monday, 4

Still struggling to get enough playing time

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