With the men’s FIFA World Cup kicking off qualifying matches around the world, the Flying Eagles are preparing to represent Nigeria in the 2022 Qatar tournament. As one of the emerging talents in the realm of national football, pundits are already diving into the Nigerian men’s team to forecast their performance as more World Cup news emerges.
Some are even appraising the Super Falcons women’s national team. This summer, they’ve been battering through CAF Women’s Olympic qualifiers, as well as undertaking an invitational friendly tournament against the US, Portugal, and Jamaica.
The US women’s national team has won the FIFA World Cup twice in a row, which makes them the target for every squad preparing for the 2023 tournament. Some pundits have speculated that the team has ended its dynastic run as the old guard of players slowly retires.
Fortunately for fans of the women’s FIFA World Cup, most of 2019’s strongest players will be representing their national teams once again. Megan Rapinoe of the US, Marta of Brazil, and Amandine Henry are notable talents from the last World Cup who are likely to play their final tour in 2023.
However, there will also be plenty of rookies making their debuts, like Nigeria’s own Nicole and Toni Payne, sisters who compete in the US’s collegiate football league. Given the Super Falcons won’t be competing in the upcoming 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, the squad has ample time to prepare for the World Cup.
Super Falcons Flying High in June Friendlies
In May, head coach of the University of Pittsburgh Panthers women’s football team and current head coach of the Super Falcons, Randy Waldrum, called his squad together in May. Prior to the call-up, the squad appeared in the Olympic Qualifying tournament in February, where they ultimately missed out on a ticket to Tokyo with a 1-1 tie with Ivory Coast, which won on away goals.
Though missing out on a CAF win, the team then went on to defeat CSKA Moscow, Uzbekistan, and Equatorial guinea in the Turkish Women’s Cup. In June, the Super Falcons entered another invitational friendly series with the US, Portugal, and Jamaica.
On Thursday, 10 June, the Falcons lost to Jamaica in a final score of 1-0, then went on to tie Portugal 3-3 in their 14 June faceoff. Shortly, they’ll be facing the number one ranked FIFA women’s team. At the moment, the Super Falcons are ranked 38th in the world by FIFA. However, this ranking doesn’t indicate just how unique and talented the Nigerian women’s squad is.
They’re one of only seven nations to have qualified for every World Cup since the very first games in China in 1991. In 1999, in only their third appearance, they managed to make it to the quarterfinals before losing to Brazil 4-3.
Waldrum Builds a Deep Roster
As mentioned above, Nicole and Toni Payne were recently called up by Waldrum and should add vital striking power to the Super Falcons. The team captain, Asisat Oshoala, was recently named Nigeria Women’s Most Valuable Player for the 2020-21 season—though anyone who’s been following the player is likely aware of her talent.
As a top player on FC Barcelona, Oshoala has spent time with prestigious clubs all over the world—in China with club Dailan, in England with clubs Arsenal and Liverpool, and in Nigeria with clubs Rivers Angels and FC Robo. With FC Barcelona, she became the first African woman to win the UEFA Champions League this past May.
Additionally, the Super Falcons can rely on global superstar Franny Ordega and striker Rita Chikwelu to put goals away. Back in 2009, Chikwelu was the leading scorer in the Finnish women’s league and has also led the Super Falcons to the African Women’s Championship in 2016 and 2018.
Similarly, Chidinma Okeke (who also plays on Madrid CFF with Chikwelu) has made meaningful contributions to the national team. In 2019, she played in the FIFA World Cup, as well as at the WAFU Women’s Cup. Okeke typically plays defense, where she makes a killer team with midfielder Chikwelu, who’s able to control the ball and guide playmaking.