The Super Falcons will this evening battle the Bayana Bayana of South Africa in the finals of the 2019 TOTAL Africa Women’s Cup of Nations, AWCON, in Accra, Ghana.
Today’s final will be a repeat of the Group B clash between the two sides when the defending champions lost 0-1 to their South African opponents in Cape Coast on November 18.
Without doubt, even as they went on to win their remaining matches to reach the finals, the Super Falcons are still licking their wounds because the defeat came to them as a rude shock.
Immediately after the opening day defeat, the coach of the team Thomas Dennerby blamed the loss on inadequate preparation. However, he has promised to lead his team to victory against the Bayana Bayana in their second meeting in Ghana.
“This is a dream final but when we arrived in Ghana, we made it clear our first target was the ticket to the World Cup, and after that, retaining the trophy.
“Now, we have achieved our first target. On Saturday, we have the opportunity of achieving our second target. We will go in there and give it our best shot and take the trophy back to Nigeria,” he told CAFonline.
To reach today’s final, the Super Falcons who are eying their ninth AWCON title were stretched to the fullest by the Indomitable Lionesses of Cameroon in the first semi-final.
However, the Nigerian girls showed more composure in the resultant penalty shoot-out to win 4-2 after the match ended 0-0 in regulation and extra time.
It was however a smooth sail for their opponents who made a mince-meat of West Africans Mali to reach their first ever AWCON final and also book a first ever FIFA Women’s World Cup ticket.
Considering that the first three teams automatically qualify for the 2019 Women’s World Cup, the two finalists have landed in France.
The last ticket will be decided between Indomitable Lioness of Cameroon and Mali in the third place match. Going by the pedigree of the Indomitable Lionesses, they are highly favoured to beat Mali to the remaining ticket.
However, since football is not mathematics where one plus one is two, the Malians won’t like to surrender the ticket to their more illustrious opponents without a fight.
Although the two finalists are home and dry as far as France 2019 is concerned, there is still some much to play for. The final showdown is indeed a grudge match.
While the Bayana Bayana are still unbeaten and would fancy their chances against the defending champions, Super Falcons would be all out for revenge.
The ego of the Falcons was badly bruised by the loss to the Bayana Bayana so only victory in today’s final will help restore their lost pride.
Even as the Super Falcons have intimidating pedigree, that didn’t stop the South African’s from beating them when they clashed in the group stage.
This means for them to win today, the Falcons will have to get their acts together. Their performance in the opening match was indeed lackadaisical. They failed to show champions stuff and paid dearly when they conceded that late goal to start the campaign on a losing note.
If they believed they would stroll past the South Africans, by now they must have realised the threat coming from their opponents who had better preparations for the tournament.
There is, therefore, need for the Super Falcons to take their chances. It will be recalled that in their other match, the champions had only one decent view of their opponents’ goal but the opportunity was squandered by Desire Oparanozie.
The South African keeper was not called to action all through the game which is not befitting of a team that has won eight titles and is star-studded.
It will be right to say that South Africa have the best technical quality in the 2019 AWCON. They come with determination and tactical discipline.
Their enterprising football has thrown up a certain Thembi Kgatlana who is widely said to be a strong contender for Africa Women’s Player of the Year.
She has been superb and is a key figure in the South African set-up all through the tournament. She scored the winning goal for Bayana Bayana in their opening match against Nigeria.
Consequently, the South Africans would be going into today’s finas full of confidence. They know it is tricky one but believe another victory over the Super Falcons is still possible.
As earlier stated, the Super Falcons who must have learnt from the excruciating defeat to South Africa in their opening fixture would try to avoid a repeat of that mishap.
Their ever insatiable supporters want them to come home with the trophy and that would be possible, only if they up their game.
Much will be expected from the reigning African Women’s Footballer of the Year Asisat Oshoala. Although she has already scored three goals, all coming against Equatorial Guinea, she is yet to justify her high rating on the continent.
Today’s final is therefore another opportunity for her to redeem her sagging image. If she clicks and leads the team to victory, she would have atoned for her ‘sins’ in the previous matches.
Apart from Oshoala, Desire Oparanozie whose goal gave Nigeria victory over Cameroon in the finals of the 2016 edition must step up her performance. Nigerians are still talking about the glorious chance she wasted in the opening match against South Africa.
Washington Spirits of USA striker, Francisca Ordega who has scored twice and was voted Woman of the Match against Zambia in the second group game will be called upon the supply the cross from the wings.
And FC Robo youngster Rasheedt Ajibade who has since justified her elevation from the Falconets to the Falcons is another player who can do the damage, if attention shifts to the more experienced strikers in the team.
So far, the defence has let in only one goal which shows there is quality in the backline. The defence is no doubt anchored on experienced campaigners, Onome Ebi and Osinachi Ohale.
In all, team work will help do the job for the Super Falcons as they go hunting for their ninth AWCON title against the Bayana Bayana of South Africa.
The Super Falcons were champions in 1998, 2000, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2010, 2014 and 2016 in Cameroon.