Morocco 2024: History favours Super Falcons in clash with Cape Verde senior women’s team

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

Super Falcons

Ordinarily, the encounter between Nigeria’s senior women’s football team, Super Falcons and their Cape Verdean counterparts in a 2024 Women Africa Cup of Nations (WAFCON) qualifiers final round, first leg tie at the Moshood Abiola National Stadium, Abuja on Thursday by 4 pm would not have called for caution but the unpredictability in the game of football makes it necessary for Nigeria to approach the match with every seriousness it deserves.

This is because there are no more minors in world football as many countries are investing in the development of women’s football at all levels including the Island country of Cape Verde, the conquerors of Liberia in the first round of this WAFCON qualifiers. They edged out Liberia over two legs to qualify to meet Nigeria.
Cape Verde thrashed Liberia 3-0 at the 15,000 capacity Estádio Nacional de Cabo Verde, Praia in the first leg and humbled the fellow West Africans again 2-3 away in Monrovia in the return match to qualify for this final round against Nigeria in a winner takes all clash over two legs on 6-2 aggregate scoreline.
It was no mean feat for a small country like Cape Verde that has just started competing in WAFCON and FIFA-approved women’s football competitions to reach this stage and if they are underrated by their more illustrious opponents Nigeria, they will cause an upset in Abuja.
In fact, Cape Verde’s team boasts of no fewer than 11 foreign-based players who ply their trades in the Portuguese and La Liga feminin leagues invited by head coach, Silvéria Nédio including their Top scorer and Most caps,  Irlanda Lopes (27) of Portugal Amora.
Other Europe-based players in the team are defenders Leonilde Rodrigues (25) of Portuguese club Amora and Adriana Semedo (24) of Real Zaragoza, Spain; Forwards Ivania Moreira ( 30) of Racing Power, Melatcha (23) of Portugal Damaiense, Evy Pereira (29) of Racing Power and newly invited duo, Letícia dos Santos of Sport Club Mirandela, Portugal and Netherlands-born Jolina Amani (24) of FC Braga.
Midfielders Kleydiana Borges (28) of Vitória de Guimarães, Eleia Vieira (23) of Portugal Amora and Sasha Wahnon ( 26) of Portugal Amora complete the professional players called up to do battle with Super Falcons.
Ranked 133rd in the world and 19th in Africa as compared to Nigeria 32 and No.1 in Africa, the huge difference of 101places in the world and 19th in Africa will not matter much when the match kicks off in Abuja on Thursday evening as the team which was  not formed in 2018 has defeated the senior women’s football teams formed many years before them.
For example, Cape Verde in January 2023 participated in the WAFU A Women’s Championship and walloped Guinea Bissau 4-0, hammered Mauritania 6-0, piped The Gambia 2-1 before losing to Senegal 0-1 in the final. And in September 2023, Cape Verde thrashed Liberia 3-0 in Praia and edged Liberia 2-3 in the return leg tie of the ongoing 2024 WAFCON qualifiers.
Statistics showed that Cape Verde is a high scoring side by putting a total of 19 goals passed their opponents in six games which is an average of 3.1 goals per match while conceeding only 4 goals in the same number of matches, an average of 0.6 per game. This is an excellent performance by all standard and should be a source of concern to the Nigeria camp.

Interim head coach of Super Falcons Justin Madugu

But acting head coach Justin Madugu has said that he is confident Super Falcons will fly over Cape Verde in Abuja despite the absence of a few regular players for various reasons including injuries and documentation.

According to him, “we are missing a regular players for various reasons but we are not here to dwell on that. The Super Falcons’ team remains the Super Falcons anytime, anyday and anywhere. We have players in camp who will do justice to the badge and get us the qualification ticket to the WAFCON.
“Surely, we would have wanted a couple more days for the team to train together, but the fixture is the fixture and the window is the window, and we just have to make do with what we have and get the best out of the arrangement. Everyone in camp will play their part for the Super Falcons to qualify for Morocco 2024.”
As at time of filing this report, a total of 20 of the 21 invited players have had at least three or two full training sessions with the team except US-based University of Pittsburgh Panthers defender, Deborah Abiodun who was expected to hit camp Wednesday night.
Meanwhile, no fewer than 20 players including the three invited goalkeepers- Paris FC safe-gloves Chiamaka Nnadozie, Saudi Arabia-based Tochukwu Oluehi and Edo Queens FC goalkeeper Christiana Chinaza Obia, took part in the full training supervised by Madugu on Tuesday and Wednesday
Others who took part in the two hours training sessions are Mexico-based veteran defender Osinachi Ohale who will most likely led the rearguard against Cape Verde, stand-in captain Rasheedat Ajibade, Uchenna Kanu, Peace Efih, Toni Payne, Omorinsola Babajide, Esther Okoronkwo, Gift Monday, Rofiat Imnuran and Oluwatosin Demehin, all foreign-based players.

Stand-in captain Rasheedat Ajibade

Also rearing to go are handful of Nigeria Women’s Football League (NWFL) stars Esther Onyenezide, Akudo Ogbonna, Glory Edet, Rihanat Kasali, Chiamaka Okwuchukwu, Motunrayo Ezekiel and Chioma Olise

Without the usual suspects-forward Asisat Oshoala; defenders Michelle Alozie and Ashley Plumptre; midfielders Halimatu Ayinde and Christy Ucheibe and striker Ifeoma Onumonu in camp, coach Madugu has enough weapons in his armoury to shoot down the Cape Verdean team.
Four of the regulars Ayinde, Ucheibe, Plumptre and Ohale did not turn up for the Paris 2024 Olympics African qualifiers double-header against Ethiopia yet Nigeria thrashed their opponents 4-0 in Abuja after holding the hosts to 1-1 draw away in Addis Ababa last October to qualify for the 3rd round on 5-1 aggregate scoreline.
For the Nigerian coaching crew led by Madugu, the encounter against Cape Verde is more than a match but a big test to their technical and tactical prowess in the absence of an expatriate coach whose status in the Super Falcons is not yet defined after his first contract with Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) ended on Tuesday, October 31, 2023 even without being on ground to lead Nigeria in Paris 2024 Olympics qualifier match against Ethiopia at Moshood Abiola National Stadium, Abuja the same day his contract ended.
History is on Madugu’s side as no Super Falcons head coach (foreign or indigenous) from late Ismaila Mabo’s era of maiden African Women Championship (AWC) in 1998 to 2022 WAFCON in Morocco have failed to qualify Nigeria for the biennial women’s football fiesta. From 1998 to date Nigeria has won the trophy nine times and was twice Champions of Africa in 1991 and 1995 as sole African representatives at the FIFA Women’s World Cup final in China and Sweden respectively.
The 13th edition of Africa’s flagship women football championship will be staged in Morocco in July 2024.
Already, the Confederation of African Football (CAF) has picked Ghanaian official Ama Boateng-Nkansah as referee, with her compatriots Doris Darko, Alice Chakule and Barikisu Salifu as assistant referee 1, assistant referee 2 and fourth official respectively. Oumou Sy from Guinea will be commissioner while Madeleine Somda from Burkina Faso will be the referee assessor.
For the return leg in Praia on Tuesday, 5th December, Liberian Sylvina Welma Garnett will be the referee with her compatriot Hannah Moses as assistant referee 1. Sierra Leoneans Precious Amara and Humu Marah will be assistant referee 2 and fourth official respectively, while Oumou Souleymane Kane from Mauritania will serve as commissioner and Fadouma Dia from Senegal will be in the role of referee assessor.
*Super Falcons in Camp*
1. Kanu Uchenna Grace
2. Obia Christiana
3. Ohale Osinachi Marvis
4. Onyenezide Esther
5. Kasali Rihanat Alake
6. Ogbonna Akudo Esther
7. Oluehi Tochukwu
8. Edet Glory
9. Efih Peace
10. Okuchukwu Chiamaka
11. Ezekiel Motunrayo
12 . Nnadozie Chiamaka
13. Demehin Oluwatosin
14. Imuran Rofiat Adenike
15. Okoronkwo Ijeoma
16. Monday Gift
17. Babajide Omorinsola
18. Olise Chioma
19. Payne Antionette
20. Ajibade Rasheedat
21. Abiodun Deborah ***

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