By Harry Awurumibe, Africa’s No. 1 Women’s Football Journalist
After suffering a humiliating 2-4 home loss to rivals, South Africa in the final of the maiden Aisha Buhari Cup at Mobolaji Johnson Arena, Onikan, Lagos last Tuesday, Nigeria’s U-20 women’s football team, Falconets will on Saturday clash with Central African Republic (CAR) in the FIFA Women’s World Cup ‘Costa Rica 2022’ African qualifiers first leg tie in Douala, Cameroon.
Already, Head Coach, Christopher Danjuma and his 23 players picked from the squad that has been training in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja for several weeks left Nigeria on Wednesday and have since settled down at Valley de Princes Hotel, Douala, ahead of Saturday’s encounter billed for Stade Japoma de Douala from 3pm local time.
On paper, the girls from CAR should not pose any problems to the highly successful team like Falconets even as they managed to get to this stage of the qualifiers after Equatorial Guinea’s U-20 team withdrew from the competition.
Falconets is Africa’s most successful team at the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup finals as they have played in every edition of the competition since the it was launched as an U-19 tournament in Canada in 2022. It has also finished second best team on two occasions, winning the Silver medals in 2010 in Germany and in 2014 in Canada as well as semi finalists in 2012 in Japan.
With the above achievements under the belt, the Falconets will not be an easy meat for the girls from CAR just as the present squad in Cameroon looks better than the 2018 Set which reached the second round of FIFA Women’s World Cup final in France.
A closer look at the 23-woman team selected by Coach Danjuma for the Douala clash showed that no fewer than 13 players came from recent U-17 teams, the Flamingos. They include Oluwatosin Demehin, Omowunmi
Oshobukola, Joy Jerry, Mercy Idoko and Precious Vincent who played under Coach Bala Nikyu.
Also in Douala with the Falconets are 8 players trained by Coach Olowookere Bankole led Flamingos that walloped Guinea U-17 5-1 at Agege stadium, Lagos on March 14, 2020 African qualifier tie.
They are Rofiat Imuran, Oluwabunmi Oladeji, Salisu Anuoluwapo, Chidinma Ogbuchi, Deborah Abiodun, Philomena Yina, Mercy Chinyere Kalu and Taiwo Lawal. The rest squad members are also “tested legs” in the Nigeria women’s football league.
With these budding stars available for selection, Coach Danjuma who led the Falconets to second round finish in 2018 FIFA Women’s World Cup final in France, cannot afford to disappoint teeming Nigerian fans on Saturday.
Should Central African Republic grind out a draw or victory over Nigeria in Douala, it will be likened to a “Tsunami” of some sort and Nigerians will not want “thunder to strike twice at one spot” in a week.
Odds favour the Falconets of Nigeria to return to Abuja with their pride intact even as quality players like Bayelsa Queens captain, Joy Jerry and Rofiat Imuran of Rivers Angels can score vital goals on a good day to win the game.
**23-Strong Falconets Squad in Douala**:
Ayomide Bakare, Monle Oyono, Inyene Etim, Oluwatosin Demehin, Omowunmi Oshobukola, Rofiat Imuran, Jumoke Alani, Angela Michael, Oluwabunmi Oladeji, Oluchi Ohaegbulem, Chidinma Ogbuchi, Rashidat Amoo, Deborah Abiodun, Philomena Yina, Anuoluwapo Salisu, Esther Onyenezide, Mercy Kalu, Joy Jerry, Chioma Sebastine, Taiwo Lawal, Mercy Idoko, Blessing Okpe, Precious Vincent.