Super Falcons go into lockdown

Monday 8 June 2015

/ by Colin Udoh
Time to put away the smiles and bring the game face on for Super Falcons

With hours to go before their opening FIFA Women's World Cup match against Sweden, Nigeria have gone dark.

Super Falcons players are among some of the most visible on social networks. The likes of star player Asisat Oshoala, fellow forwards Desire Oparanozie, Ini Umotong and  Courtney Dike as well as defender Onome Ebi among many who are especially active on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

But just over 24 hours to their big showdown, the players were asked to turn in all mobile devices, as they focus on the task at hand.

Coach Edwin Okon himself has been hesitant about getting a mobile line since arriving in Canada, and has done no interviews outside of the official pre-match conference, where he stunned reporters by saying he knew nothing about Canada

"I don't know anything about them, I'm honest," he said.

Honest he certainly is. Talkative is what he is not, as he hopes his players do their talking on the pitch.

In the meantime, they have been doing a lot of listening.

One thing the squad have now that they didn't have on previous tournaments, is a professional team psychologist. 

Former player and motivational speaker Kasia Muoto has been called home from the USA by the NFF to ensure that the mental preparation enjoys equal prominence as the physical.

After overcoming initial hiccups, players and officials have benefited from her skills, and smashed 8 goals in their first game after she started work.

It is that kind of mental fortitude the Super Falcons will need as they take on the Scandinavians. 

Nigeria last met Sweden at the 2004 Olympic Football tournament, where Mercy Akide's volleyed finish after 25 minutes looked go have set the Super Falcons on their way. 

But Sweden came back with two late goals to claim a group-winning win as both sides advanced to the knockout rounds.

Okon has a crop of young players high on confidence and belief, led by current African Player of the Year Asisat Oshoala, who was also voted BBC Women's World Player of the Year.

Well-known as the Liverpool forward may be, it will be folly to look only in her direction. Desire Oparanozie is an equally menacing prospect, especially her ability in the air.

And Washington Spirit's Francisca Ordega is one to watch out for to test any keeper from range.

Out back, Onome Ebi packs the experience of three World Cups and one Olympic Games, as does goalkeeper Precious Dede although she has an additional Olympic Games under her belt.

On the bench is the irrepressible Perpetua Nkwocha, at 39, one of the most iconic players to come out of the country and with the goalscoring to match.

Nigeria have a point to prove at this World Cup, with only one second round showing to show from their participation despite being one of only 7 teams to have been at every tournament since inception.

Okon's mishmash of youth and experience is directed at addressing that anomaly.

For a man who talks very little, victory over Sweden will definitely sound a thunderous statement across this year's field.

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  1. Its good for them to focus. We hope they get a result this evening..
    Shouldn't Precious Dede have a replacement by now? She has been there for quite a while, someone should have challenged her for that shirt by now..


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