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REVENGE ONE OF THINGS TO LOOK OUT FOR AS NIGERIA FACE CAMEROON FOR A WORLD CUP PLACE

Thursday, 14 July 2022

/ by Colin

 



Conquering Africa nine times in twelve attempts comes with both a blessing and a curse. That's the fate of the Super Falcons of Nigeria, the undisputed queens of African women's football. On one hand, they have the ultimate bragging rights and history a lot would kill for, creating a gap in the process that will take decades to reduce or close. On the flip side, it regularly puts a target on their back during African qualifiers and championships, as teams develop their game and prepare to topple them.


Kufre Ekpe provides a few things to look out for as the Super Falcons take on Cameroon in a high stakes game of winner takes World Cup ticket and place in the semifinal


CAMEROON GOING FOR REVENGE

Among the biggest rivalries in African women’s football is Nigeria v Cameroon and this is as far as football rivalries go - rich, intense, exciting, gruelling and physical. 


In 31 years, the Super Falcons and Indomitable Lionesses have met four times in the final of the WAFCON. The Nigerian ladies have dominated the Indomitable Lionesses in all.


Nigeria and Cameroon have met in all editions except for 2002 (paths didn't cross) and 1995 (the Lionesses were walked over).


The last time both sides met was at the 2016 Final in Yaounde, where the Super Falcons denied the Lionesses their first time, and in front of their fans and president, costing them money and national honours.


It is a pain that is yet to go away and what better way for Cameroon to claim their pound of flesh than to deny their rivals the chance of a direct World Cup ticket for the first time.


CAN NIGERIA SHOW BOUNCEBACKABILITY?

In 2018, the Super Falcons lost to South Africa in their opening game, but bounced back to win their next two games and qualify for the semfinal (it was still an eight team tournament at the time).

Their semifinal opponents were, you guessed it, Cameroon. A tough game ended 0-0 and the Super Falcons triumphed 4-2 on penalties and then went on to win the final against South Africa, also on penalties.

Is history about to repeat itself?

The first three games of the Super Falcons have taught us many things about the team. They have rebounded from a below-par, pegged-back performance against Banyana Banyana to play possessive, tactical games against Botswana and Burundi. They were good and dominant in the last two games of the group stage. But will that be enough going head-to-head against an ambitious Cameroon?

And will it be enough to take them all the way to La Decima?


HOW IMPORTANT WILL OKOBI AND PAYNE BE? AND HOW WILL WALDRUM SHAPE UP TACTICALLY

Aside from the first game, midfielder Ngozi Okobi-Okeoghene has featured in others and has proven she's an asset that will a handful for Cameroon.


In a free role, Sweden-based Okobi-Okeoghene was instrumental to Waldrum's tactical deployment against Botswana. Bursting with agility, she was the driving force, providing energy, forward play and control to the team’s play for 64 minutes. In 90 minutes against Burundi, she had the higher number of key passes (5).


The 28-year-old's influence in the midfield underlines her pivotal role as a versatile midfielder. The Eskilstuna United player is a battler, a clear head and a steady presence for the Falcons. Her recovery rate is also impressive. A midfield collaboration with Halimatu Ayinde and Peace Efih will avail the team grit and balance to match Cameroon's physical strength.


Defensively, Michelle Alozie is expected to be back on the right. But it will be fascinating to see what Waldrum decides for the left spot as he's started three different left-wing backs in three games - Ashleigh Plumptre (South Africa), Toni Payne (Botswana) and Nicole Payne (Burundi). Glory Ogbonna has also played there as a sub, for 43 minutes against Burundi.


Though not a natural left back, the overwhelming choice will be Toni Payne. She has established herself as an offensively gifted player and played an advanced role against South Africa. But Waldrum unpredictably played her as a left-wing back in Botswana's game, and she provided something new - pace, drive and quick recovery. These attributes will come in handy against Cameroon.


The centre-back partnership of captain Onome Ebi and Osinachi Ohale has gotten better with the passing of the competition. Both are good passers of the ball, recording excellent passing accuracy so far, specifically in the last two games. Singling out the WOTM against Burundi, Ohale, she's been impressive in her ball distribution, constantly supplying long balls to the forwards. Rasheedat Ajibade benefited tremendously from this against Burundi.


Waldrum reverted to the 4-3-3 formation against Burundi, this time making use of the wings. Nigeria's wing play troubled the Burundesi. Ajibade and Uchenna Kanu exploited their space, outpacing their markers. This is another element of their game strategy that Cameroon should be wary of.


It will be interesting to see how Waldrum will line up against Cameroon but a starting roster of Nnadozie; T. Payne, Ebi, Ohale, Alozie; Ayinde, Efih, Okobi-Okeoghene; Ajibade, Kanu and Onumonu will be very competitive and difficult to best.


Cameroonian Football Federation President, Samuel Etoó has given the team a semi-final target, which makes this fixture a do-or-die battle against the title holders.


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