Harry Awurumibe, Editor-in-Chief
Super Falcons Captain to the last FIFA Women’s World Cup final in France, Desire Ugochi Oparanozie is the surprise omission in the list of 23 players the new coach Randy Waldrum invited for the fifth edition of the Turkish Women’s Cup which will hold in Antalya from February 15 to 24, 2021.
The is expected to land in Antalya on Monday to participate in the international competition which will also feature another African country, Equitorial Guinea, Ukraine, Serbia, India, Bulgaria and Uzbekistan are among teams confirmed so far for the 10-day tourney, though Tokyo Olympics-bound Zambia have pulled out for undisclosed reasons.
The reigning African Champions which has been inactive for almost a year and half, reached the Round of 16 at the 8th FIFA Women’s World Cup finals in France in the summer of 2019 just as the team has not played any international match since being shockingly edged out of the race for the Tokyo Olympics by Cote d’Ivoire early last year.
It is also the first call of new Head Coach, American Randy Waldrum, with the squad he is expected to mould into credible competitors for honours at global level.
Nine-time African champions Nigeria and Equatorial Guinea’s Nzalang Nacional have been lumped into the same pool alongside Uzbekistan, with the Guineans handed an opportunity to address a 6-0 spanking by the Nigerians in the group phase of the 2018 Women Africa Cup of Nations finals in Ghana.
Also known as the Alanya Gold City Cup, the tournament ranks as one of the more notable events on the women’s football calendar worldwide.
The Falcons will aim to become the first African side to triumph at the tournament, following the third pplace finish by Ghana’s Black Queens last year. Chile won the trophy with Hungary as runner-up.
Poland (2017) and France (2018 and 2019) are the other previous winners of the Alanya Gold City Cup.
Meanwhile, Nigeria’s United States-born Head Coach, Waldrum has invited 23 players, mostly from the group that reached the Round of 16 at the World Cup in France, including goalkeepers Tochukwu Oluehi and Chiamaka Nnadozie, defenders Onome Ebi and Chidinma Okeke, midfielders Rita Chikwelu, Ngozi Okobi-Okeoghene and Halimatu Ayinde, and forwards Gift Monday, Rasheedat Ajibade and Asisat Oshoala.
However, the surprise omission is France-based Falcons attacker Desire Ugochi Oparanozie who has not been recalled to the team since Nigeria’s woeful loss to Germany in the round of 16 in France in June 2019. She was not invited forvthe two-leg Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games Africa qualifiers between Nigeria and Cote d Ivoire last year.
Other players who featured in France but are not in the current list include goalkeeper, Alaba Jonathan; defenders Ngozi Ebere and Faith Ikhidi-Michael
23 FALCONS FOR ALANYA GOLD CITY CUP
Goalkeepers: Tochukwu Oluehi (C.D. Pozoalbense, Spain); Chiamaka Nnadozie (Paris FC, France); Christy Ohiaeriaku (Edo Queens)
Defenders: Onome Ebi; Glory Ogbonna (Edo Queens); Osinachi Ohale (Madrid CFF, Spain); Mariam Ibrahim (Nasarawa Amazons); Chidinma Okeke (Madrid CFF, Spain); Habeebat Akinwande (FC Robo)
Midfielders: Rita Chikwelu (Madrid CFF, Spain); Esther Sunday (ALG SPOR, Turkey); Ngozi Okobi-Okeoghene (Eskilstuna, Sweden); Antoinette Payne (Sevilla FC, Spain); Halimatu Ayinde (Eskilstuna, Sweden); Christy Ucheibe (SL Benfica, Portugal); Patricia George (Sands FC, Germany)
Forwards: Asisat Oshoala (FC Barcelona, Spain); Uchenna Kanu (Linkopings, Sweden); Rasheedat Ajibade (Atletico Madrid, Spain); Francisca Ordega; Chinwendu Ihezuo; Gift Monday (FC Robo); Charity Adule (SD Eibar, Spain)