EXPOSED! Nigeria’s Super Falcons as Team USA Training Materials

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

Down and Out…Nigeria’s goalkeeper Chiamaka Nnadozie sprawling on the turf after she was beaten by attacker Sophia Smith twice in the 4-0 thrashing of Super Falcons in Kansas City

The Super Falcons recent matches against the United States Women’s National Team (USWNT) in the United States of America (USA) has further exposed the former African champions as nothing but training materials for the reigning world champions.

For Team USA Head Coach Vlatko Andomovski, the two-match international friendlies between USA and Nigeria were used to knock into shape his team for the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup final in Australia and New Zealand.

With several months to the global women’s football fiesta,Andomovski have already selected full squad he will take to the World Cup as 21 out of the 23 players on his roster for the two matches against Nigeria are also part of the roster that helped the USA win the 2022 Concacaf Women’s Championship in Mexico recently.

The 23 players include defender Kelley O’Hara and forward Trinity Rodman, who both featured in the USA’s successful five-game run in Monterrey, were also initially named to the roster but O’Hara was later ruled out of camp due to a lingering hip injury while Rodman withdrew due to a family commitment. They were replaced by defender Hailie Mace and midfielder Savannah DeMelo. Defender Crystal Dunn, who gave birth to her son Marcel on May 20, is also in camp for training as she continues her return to fitness but will not feature in the matches.

The desire to play an African team before the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup final in Australia and New Zealand to gauge the strength of the Africans ensured that Team USA coach demanded for a friendly match with the former African champions, Super Falcons and his request was granted him as United States Soccer Federation (USSF) extended invitation to Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) which was accepted without hesitation.

The two matches which took place on September 3 at Children’s Park in Kansas City and September 6 at Audi Field in Washington D.C. and won by Team USA was the second time in two years both countries clashed in U.S , though this will be just the seventh matchup all-time between the two nations and only the second such meeting in a friendly match.

Not a laughing matter… Randy Waldrum. Head Coach of Nigeria

The first five matchups between the USA and Nigeria all came at Women’s World Championship events, with four meetings at the FIFA Women’s World Cup (1999, 2003, 2007 and 2015) and one at the Olympics (2000).

Apart from a 7-1 win in the first ever meeting between the two countries which came in Group A tie at the 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup in USA, and a 5-0 victory for the Americans in the 2003 FIFA World Cup group stage in USA too, the majority of the meetings between these two nations have been tightly contested. Also,the USA defeated Nigeria 3-1at the 2000 Olympic Games and registered a pair of 1-0 group stage wins over the Super Falcons at both the 2007 and 2015 World Cups.

Before the September 2022 tie, the most recent match between the two sides came on June 16, 2021, in Austin, Texas, as the teams met in the first-ever soccer match at Austin’s FC’s spectacular Q2 Stadium. Christen Press scored the first-ever goal in that venue and Lynn Williams added a score off a counterattack for the 2-0 win for the Americans.

The USA out-shot Nigeria 15-7 in that match, though only six of the 23 players on the September roster saw action in that 2021 encounter against the Super Falcons.

Overall, the USWNT has a perfect record against African oppositions, defeating Nigeria six times in six meetings and South Africa twice in two games even as Team USA has kept clean sheets in each of its last six games against CAF foes.

No Way. ..Nigerian players crowd Team USA attacker during last year’s Summer Series in Texas

The draw for the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup will be held 0n October 22 in Auckland, New Zealand as all the 32 qualified countries will find out their first round opponents and path through the tournament with Nigeria and the USA amongst the few elite nations that have qualified for its ninth consecutive FIFA Women’s World Cup, having played in every tournament since the competition’s inception in 1991 in China.

Others are Brazil, Japan and Sweden that have also qualified for a ninth Women’s World Cup as Germany and Norway can join that group as well if they successfully qualify for Australia/New Zealand.

A closer look at the past World Cup’s grouping showed clearly that Nigeria has always been paired with teams from Central and North America; Europe, Asia, Oceania or South American opponents. It means that Nigeria will always be pitched against teams from USA/Canada/ Mexico or Jamaica.

Also, teams from England/ Germany/ France or Sweden; Japan/North Korea or South Korea; Australia or New Zealand and Brazil/Argentina or Colombia, will fall into the same group with Nigeria.

Nigeria, Morocco, South Africa and Zambia have qualified automatically and Cameroon and Senegal are already in the inter-Confederation Play-off and will be participating in the next year’s competition if they are successful.

This is the main reason the USA always turn to Nigeria for international friendly matches especially in FIFA World Cup year, to test the strength of the strongest African team with the knowledge that Team USA will be paired with any of the four African countries that have qualified for the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup final in Australia and New Zealand.

The intentions of the USA as have been explained above was to use the Super Falcons as training materials; to see how strong the African teams have developed and to use the friendly matches to test the readiness of the American squad ahead of the World Cup final.

Sadly, Nigerian football authorities see these invitation for international friendlies between USA and Nigeria as a big deal or at best a funfair and an excursion instead of taking a advantage of the invitation to also test the strength of the Super Falcons ahead of major international competitions like the World Cup, Olympic Games and AWCON.

Unlike coach Vlatko Andomovski who invited all his 23 first team players he used to win Concacaf Women’s Championship in Mexico last July, Super Falcons Head Coach Randy Waldrum invited only 14 players out of 25 he took to AWCON in Morocco in July.

Waldrum included three U-20 players and six home-based players in the 20-woman roster he used to prosecute the two matches against Team USA, leaving most of the experienced players like reigning African Best Footballer, Asisat Oshoala and
team captain Onome Ebi.

African Best Women’s Footballer of the Year

Also, missing in action were many first team players like defender Ashleigh Plumptre; midfielders Halimat Ayinde, Rita Chikwelu and Ngozi Okobi-Okoghene; forwards Desire Oparanozie, Francisca Ordega, Ijeoma Okoronkwo and Chinwendu Ihezue as well as others like veteran goalkeeper Toochukwu Oluehi among other good players.

Nigeria’s inability to raise a strong team to match the Americans in the so-called international friendly matches with USA have always left Nigerian holding the short end of the stick with the country benefiting nothing from such high-profile matches.

While USA women’s football team is ready for 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup final, Nigeria has no clue who will make the team as Waldrum is busy with his University of Pittsburgh Women’s Soccer Team which is his primary job.

With a moonlighting head coach like Waldrum, Nigerians should not expect any miracle that Super Falcons will punch beyond their capability in next year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup final in Australia and New Zealand.

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