By Harry Awurumibe, Africa’s No.1 Women Football Journalist
For ardent followers of women’s footballl in Nigeria, it was not a big surprise that the Super Falcons of Nigeria suffered yet another defeat in international friendly match, this time against Japan in Kobe in the early hours of Friday.
Two second-half goals by nimble-footed forward, Mina Tanaka condemned the Super Falcons to a 0-2 defeat by Japan in the friendly match inside the Noevir Stadium in Kobe which was part of the preparations for both countries ahead of the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup final in Australia and New Zealand.
A string of brilliant saves by a first-choice goaltender, Chiamaka Cynthia Nnadozie, kept Nigeria in the game in the first half, and the Falcons almost took a surprise lead when defender Ashleigh Plumptre struck the woodwork from a free-kick.
However, expectations of a better performance by the Nigerian team in the second half evaporated like early morning dew as the the Japanese senior
women’s team popularly called Nadeshiko took the fight their visitors.
It was a matter of time as Tanaka scored her first in the 65th minute when she chest-controlled the ball from a free-kick and slammed past the sprawling Nnadozie
Tanaka’s second came three minutes later, from the penalty spot, after a harsh challenge from veteran defender Osinachi Ohale on an advancing Japanese attacker in the Nigeria area gifted the host a penalty.
Nigeria could have conceded more goals but for the agility and ability of Nnadozie to thwart the more skilful Japanese.
Infact, Nigeria is fast becoming the punching bag of Japan as the former African champions have always been beaten by the Asian giants and 2011 FIFA World Cup winners both at the competitive level and friendly matches.
Both teams have clashed only once at competitive level at the 2004 Olympic Women’s Football Tournament in Athens, Greece as Nadeshiko pipped the Falcons 1-0 at the Karaiskakis Stadium in Piraeus on August 14, 2004.
Since then the Nadeshiko currently rated 13th in the world by world football governing body FIFA have dominated Nigeria even as two back-to-back friendly matches in 2013 in Japan were won 2-0 each by Nadeshiko, the first team from Asia to win a senior FIFA World Cup trophy.
Japan’s entertaining girls won the FIFA World Cup in Germany in 2011, defeating Team USA in a pulsating penalty shoot-out after regulation time ended 2-2, thus became the first team from Asia to win a senior FIFA World Cup trophy.
Meanwhile, Nigeria’s latest defeat in Kobe by Japan was the Super Falcons’ eighth loss in 2022 from 15 games under the United States-born Head Coach Randy Waldrum with the team losing five matches in a row.
Nigeria has also not won any of her last eight away matches just as the Super Falcons came into the game against Nadeshiko in Kobe
on the back of a 6-1 aggregate defeat to the United States in a double-header clash in September.
Also, Waldrum and his harples team lost thrice at the 2022 African Women’s Cup of Nations (AWCON) to South Africa in the group stage, Morroco in the semi-final and Zambia in the third-place match.
Again, Waldrum-led side played two international friendly matches with Canada, losing the first and drawing the second in Vancouver earlier in the year.
Curiously, with Nigeria’s Super Falcons on a free-fall under the watch of Waldrum who is also the current Head Coach of University of Pittsburgh Women’s Soccer Team in US less than one year to the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup final, the country’s football governing body Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) has turned blind eyes to the harvest of bad results by the coach and his team.
Never in the history of the Super Falcons had the team gone on losing streaks for consecutive matches yet NFF is seating comfortably and watching the labours of the pioneer women’s football stakeholders going down the drain.
Worse, the Federation and its match agents have already arranged another international friendly matches in the November FIFA women’s football window for Waldrum and his fumbling Super Falcons.
As has been the pattern, both the coach and his fellow foreign-based players will regroup in the host country for just 24 hours before taking to the field and at the end of the day the results are the same, defeats.
With the shambolic records of the American gaffer since he took charge of the Super Falcons in February 2021 and losing three Grade A matches against lowly Jamaica, Team USA and South Africa as well as drawing with Portugal and beating only Mali in five games, anyone hoping to see Nigeria mount podium challenge in next year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup final in Australia and New Zealand is just a gambler.
*Coach Randy Waldrum 2022 Scorecard*:
Nigeria 2 – 0 Ghana Ghana 1- 0 Nigeria
Nigeria 2- 0 Cote d Ivoire
Cote d Ivoire 0 – 1 Nigeria
Canada 2-0 Nigeria
Canada 2-2 Nigeria
Nigeria 1-2 SAfrica
Nigeria 4-0 Burundi
Nigeria 1-0 Cameroon
Morocco 1 (5)- 1 (4) Nigeria
Zambia 2-1 Nigeria
USA 4-0 Nigeria
USA 2-1 Nigeria
Japan 2-0 Nigeria