Congrats, Super Falcons

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A forthnight ago inside the Ohene Djan Stadium, Accra, Ghana, Nigeria’s national women football team, Super Falcons, edged out their South African counterparts, Banyana Banyana 4-2 on penalties after 120 minutes of regular and extra-time stalemate to win the 11th Total African Women’s Cup of Nations ( 2018 AWCON).
That the Falcons, after an opening day loss to the same South Africans and some insipid performances in the course of the championship, could go all the way to the title added verve to the excitement generated by the feat.
Indeed, Nigeria has won the AWCON nine out of the 11 times that it has been staged as a championship in addition to winning its first and second editions as tournaments. But the triumph in Ghana came with added relish. In fact, it was the first time most Nigerians wrote off the chances of Super Falcons winning the AWCON after an opening match performance.
Thus, it is in the light of the pleasantly surprising outcome and the team’s ability to ride the weather of oppositions to victory that The Tide joins well-meaning Nigerians and lovers of football to congratulate the Super Falcons for their success.
The team did not only make Nigeria proud, it made a loud statement on the resilient and enterprising spirit of Nigerians even in the face of great odds. They showed that Nigerians, as a unit, can make headway even in midst of the challenges, once the will exists.
Truly, the Super Falcons did not have the best of preparations going into the 2018 African Women Championships. Motivation and morale were at their lowest ebb while quality friendly matches to put them in good stead were non-existent.
Interestingly, however, success and achievement can boast of many stakeholders. Now that many Nigerians are identifying with the Falcons and staking claim to their victory, including the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) which virtually left the team to its fate before the fiesta. We hope that lessons have been learnt.
However, while we believe that the Falcons deserve all the accolades that the Federal Government hosts the team and reward them handsomely. They, we think, deserve some pat on the back from the country.
While still basking in the euphoria of conquering Africa yet again, the team, its handlers and the NFF must bear in mind that a bigger task is just by the corner, the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup scheduled for France next year. It is the biggest stage in the game and Nigerians expect the Super Falcons to put up a brilliant performance that would ensure that Nigeria’s rating soars to the desired level.
The Falcons have been ever present at the Women’s World Cup since its inaugural edition in 1991 in China. Sadly, the Nigerian team has succeeded in getting beyond the group stage only once.
Therefore, France 2019 presents another opportunity for the team to make an impact on the biggest stage. We believe that players, handlers and major stakeholders in the national team must have learnt from their experience at the 2018 AWCON and would effect some corrective measures while preparing for the World Cup.
As it is, the task before the Super Falcons is herculean. This follows the 2019 World Cup draw that pits them amongst hosts, France, Norway and South Korea, all heavyweights in women football. Nigeria must be at her best and play like never before to have a chance of making it out of this tough group.
We are, however, happy that the NFF is taking some pro-active steps to ensure that the team is well prepared for the World Cup. The friendly matches that have reportedly been lined up against Cyprus and China are moves in the right direction. It is expected that more games against quality and tough opponents would prepare the team for the challenges of the ‘Group of Death’ the Falcons have found themselves in France 2019.
Coach of the team, Thomas Dennerby, his lieutenants and the NFF must ensure that the best players available are taken to France without sentiments. The experience of Ghana 2018 shows that women football has moved on faster than Nigeria has made progress. Moreso, the era of mere participation belongs to the past now. The team must begin to show appreciable improvement at the biggest stage, among the best women football nations.
All hands must be on deck to ensure that Falcons do not disappoint at the world stage. More importantly, that the lethargic beginning the team put up at the 2018 AWCON is not repeated in France, lest, a huge disaster befalls their ambition. The time to start preparation is now.
Thus, while we congratulate and celebrate the Super Falcons and their 2018 AWCON triumph, we pray that nobody should be unnecessarily carried away as to lose sight of the bigger picture.