23 players have been called up as the Super Falcons of Nigeria prepare to take on Ghana in the upcoming qualifying fixture for the 2022 African Women Cup of Nations.
Head coach, Randy Waldrum picked a team to execute this crucial double-header with one thing in mind; problem-solving.
The Super Falcons’defensive woes have been clear for all to see, having conceded 10 goals in their last five games.
Nigeria played three games in the invitational Summer Series which happened in June in the United States. Not only did the Falcons fail to win a game against Jamaica, Portugal and the USA, they also conceded six goals.
The most recent showing of defensive insecurities was the 4-2 loss to South Africa in Lagos. A leaky defence empowers teams to attack Nigeria with more confidence.
Super Falcons’ defensive solutions
With a spot at the 2022 AWCON on the line, Randy Waldrum has seen the need for defensive reinforcements. Eight natural defenders were called up, five of whom are home-based.
Ayomide Ojo (Edo Queens), Rafiat Imuran (Rivers Angels), Opeyemi Sunday (Edo Queens), Oluwatosin Demehin (Rivers Angels) and Akudo Ogbonna (Edo Queens) are the focal points for Waldrum’s decision to go local at the back.
Ogbonna and Demehin are making a return after being part of the squad for the Aisha Buhari Cup last month. Faith Ikidi and Michelle Alozie based in Sweden and the USA respectively are the notable casualties of Waldrum’s new approach.
But there’s reason to believe the Super Falcons’ issues may be more structural than personnel based. Regardless of who plays, Nigeria will have issues against Ghana if they don’t learn to limit spaces and close up channels.
Much like the South Africans that defeated Nigeria in the last game, Ghana is a running team. The Black Queens are rapid on the break and are experts at running through channels.
Other areas to be addressed
The focus on defence doesn’t mean it’s all rosy in other areas for the Falcons because it’s not. Randy Waldrum still hasn’t figured out a consistent creative channel, an issue that will most likely persist against Ghana.
The last five games exposed how poor the Super Falcons are at progressing the ball, let alone breaking down defensive lines. It’s no wonder they’ve only managed seven goals in that period.
The squad list contains six midfielders, including Rasheedat Ajibade and Toni Payne who are pretty much strikers.
It’s not Randy Waldrum’s fault that Nigeria has an overload of talent in forward areas. However, it is his responsibility to find a balance. Of what use is it to have several strikers and no consistent supply line?
All too often, the Super Falcons have relied on the individual brilliance of Asisat Oshoala and most recently, Gift Monday.
It remains to be seen on the pitch if Randy Waldrum learnt anything from the disappointing performances of the last five games.
However, the 23-woman squad list suggests that he’s aware of the defensive issues but aloof of anything else.