War of two birds as Super Falcons, Mali’s Les Aigles clash in Lagos

By Harry Awurumibe, Africa’s No.1 Women’s Football Journalist

Super Falcons lineup at Summer Series in Texas, USA

All is set for Nigeria’s Super Falcons and Les Aiglonnes (The Female Eagles) of Mali first match of the much-awaited Lagos 6-Nation Invitational Friendly Matches holding at the refurbished Mobolaji Johnson Arena formerly Onikan Stadium, Lagos Island today.

On paper, an encounter between  Falcons and Les Aiglonnes of Mali, is expected to be a walk in the park because of the pedigree of the reigning African Champions if the results of earlier meetings between the two nations’ women’s football teams are to be considered.
The first time Nigeria and Mali clashed was far back in 2001 in Bamako, capital of Mali, in the FIFA U-19 (now U-20) ‘Canada 2002’ African qualifiers tie which Nigeria won 4-0 away before another 6-0 whitewash of Mali in Abeokuta, Ogun state two weeks later.

Mali Female Eagles in bus ride from Lagos Airport on arrival

At full senior level, Nigeria humiliated Mali 5-1 at Warri Township stadium in the second Group A match of the 2002 African Women’s Championship (AWC) now Cup of Nations (AWCON) played in December 13, 2002.

Former Super Falcons star and 4-time African Best Footballer of the Year Award Winner, Perpetua Nkwocha scored a brace just as her teammates, Mercy Akide, Florence Iweta and late Ifeanyichukwu Chiejine scored one goal each on the day.
Also, Nigeria ranks far higher in the FIFA Women’s World Rankings than Mali that is ranked 85th. They have never qualified for a FIFA Women’s World Cup, but made a total of six appearances in the Africa Women Cup of Nations since the 2002 edition.
But times have changed and a football match is like a crackers biscuit that breaks into many parts when someone takes a bite hence
Super Falcons Head Coach, Randy Waldrum and his girls will not take Mali challenge lightly.
That Les Aiglonnes finished 4th place at the AWCON 2018 in Ghana is enough signal that the Malians are not in Lagos to admire the Lagos Bar Beach and flyovers or the remodelling of Onikan Stadium to a world class soccer edifice as Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu has done.

Super Falcons Head Coach Randy Waldrum

Mali can pose a threat to Super Falcons on the day because Les Aiglonnes also have players based overseas especially in France like ace defender, Aïssatou Diadhiou , aged 30 of ES Rennes and two attackers Sebe Coulibaly (No.9) aged 27 of RC Saint-Denis and 24 year-old Aissata Traoré of Guingamp, France.

They are complimented by  Bassira Touré , 31 of Mandé FC; Agueissa Diarra, 23 of Super Lionnes FC and  Oumou Kone 21 of Super Lionnes, Bamako as well as three midfielders Binta Diarra (AS Real), Fatoumata Diarra (AS Mandé) and  Salimata Diarra (AS Mandé). The complexion of the Mali team will give an idea that they can hold their own if they are in the form they were in the last AWCON in Ghana.
However, with the ‘armada’ of foreign-based players at the disposal of Coach Randy Waldrum, it will be a big surprise if Super Falcons beat Les Aiglonnes with less than three nil today.
Falcons biggest weapons are in camp and if all go well Mali cannot withstand the fire power of Nigeria. This is even as FC Barcelona feminine forward and team captain, Asisat Oshoala will lead the line for Super Falcons today.
Also, starting today in Lagos are Onome Ebi, Rita Chikwelu, Glory Ogbonna, Ngozi Okobi-Okeoghene, Rasheedat Ajibade, Francisca Ordega, Mitchell Alozie, Uchenna Kanu, Toni Payne and goalkeeper Chiamaka Nnadozie depending on the tactics Waldrum wants to adopt.
In all, the Onikan stadium will be a great place for Super Falcons to get a good win to confirm to their die-hard supporters and promoters for over 30 years now that the good times are here again.
Go Girls.

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