After the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) cleared all their outstanding entitlements, the Super Falcons have declared they are in the mood and spirit to take all three points off the Grasshoppers of Norway in their first match of the 8th FIFA Women’s World Cup finals in Reims on Saturday.
One of only seven teams to have made it to every edition of the FIFA Women’s World Cup finals since the inaugural competition in 1991, the Falcons have made it out of the group stage only once previously, and that was 20 years ago.
A 2-1 defeat of North Korea and a 2-0 win over Denmark, on either side of a 7-1 roasting by Team USA, steered the African champions to the quarterfinals, where they came back from three goals down to level with Brazil before losing by the golden goal in extra time.
Nigeria’s closest walk to the knockout rounds since then was Germany 2011, where they lost by the odd goal to both France and Germany and then defeated Canada by the odd goal.
Midfielder Ngozi Okobi told thenff.com: “It is true that we have not really pulled our weight at the FIFA World Cup before now. But I can say we have the team to do that here in France.
The NFF has done well by ensuring good preparation for the team, with the tournaments that we played. A lot is hanging on the first match against Norway. If we are able to get a good result, then we will take it from there.”
Norway comes into the encounter with the mindset that they should be able to steamroll the African champions. Only last week, the Grasshoppers hammered another African representative, South Africa 7-2 in a friendly. And going back 24 years, at the second edition of the FIFA World Cup staged by Sweden, Norway lashed Nigeria 8-0 in a group stage encounter in Helsinborg.
Head Coach Thomas Dennerby is asking his girls to take it one match at a time and develop a positive mindset about the finals.
“A positive mindset is key to what we are here for. You must believe in yourselves and have confidence in what you can do here. You must give it your best,” he told the players after Thursday’s training session at the Stade Jean Boucton in Reims.
A good number of the Nigerian mainstream play their club football in the Scandinavia region, to which Norway belongs. These include defender Osinachi Ohale, Ngozi Ebere and Faith Michael, midfielders Rita Chikwelu, Ngozi Okobi, Ogonna Chukwudi and Halimatu Ayinde, and forwards Anam Imo and Rasheedat Ajibade. These players should, indeed, have a very good idea of how Norway will set up and activate at the Stade Auguste-Delaune on Saturday night.
Pacy forward Asisat Oshoala, who has sealed a permanent move to FC Barcelona Ladies, was on Wednesday appointed team assistant captain.
23 SUPER FALCONS AT FRANCE 2019
GOALKEEPERS: Tochukwu Oluehi (Rivers Angels); Alaba Jonathan (Bayelsa Queens); Chiamaka Nnadozie (Rivers Angels).
Defenders: Osinachi Ohale (Vaxjo DFF, Sweden); Ngozi Ebere (Arna Bjornar, Norway); Onome Ebi (Henan Huisanhang, China); Faith Michael (Pitea IF, Sweden); Chidinma Okeke (FC Robo).
MIDFIELDERS: Rita Chikwelu (Krstianstand DFF, Sweden); Ngozi Okobi-Okeoghene (Eskiltuna United, Sweden); Evelyn Nwabuoku (Rivers Angels); Ogonna Chukwudi (Djurgardens IF, Sweden); Halimatu Ayinde (Eskiltuna United, Sweden); Amarachi Okoronkwo (Nasarawa Amazons).
FORWARDS: Desire Oparanozie (En Avant Guingamp, France); Anam Imo (Malmo FC Rosengard, Sweden); Asisat Oshoala (FC Barcelona, Spain); Chinaza Uchendu (SC Braga, Portugal); Uchenna Kanu (Southeastern University, USA); Rasheedat Ajibade (Alvadsnes IL, Norway); Francisca Ordega (Shanghai W. FC); Alice Ogebe (Rivers Angels); Chinwendu Ihezuo (Henana Huisanhang, China).