Sunday, June 26, 2011

2011 FIFA WWC Meet Nigeria’s Super Falcons

21 players are on national assignment for Nigeria in Germany. Their objective is to ensure that the team gets into the final after five previous attempts. For some, it is a mission impossible but for others it is achieveable. Ejiro Femi-Babafemi takes a look at these girls and their pedigree who open their campaign against France today.

Precious Dede
Date of birth: 18-01-1980
Position: Goalkeeper
Club: unattached
Height: 180cm
FIFA World Cup Appearances—2003, 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup
In 2007, Precious Dede was outstanding in goal for the Super Falcons despite crashing out in the group stage of the FIFA Women’s World Cup in China.  Today those heroic saves that earned her the accolades of USA former coach Greg Ryan appears to have faded away. But the 31 years old shot stopper thinks differently. Luckily for her, the Nigerian captain enjoys the confidence of Coach Uche Eucharia. As fars as Eucharia is concerned, Dede is the best. Unattached at the moment, since returning from Norway, Dede needs the tournament to prove that age is just a number. How far she would go would be determined when Nigeria takes on France in today’s opener. Against the French team, Dede must be cautious in the handling of aerial balls and set pieces.
Strengths—Good in the air, calm, experienced, good anticipatory instincts and commands the respect of players
Weaknesses—fumbles when not expected, occasionally loses her calm when under pressure

Alaba Jonathan
Born: 01-06-1992 
Position: Goalkeeper 
Height: 165 cm 
Club:  Pelican Stars
FIFA World Cup Appearance: 2010 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup
The Pelican Stars keeper who is Falcons third choice made history for saving the penalty of USA captain, Christine Nairn that enabled the Falconets qualify for the semi final. However her critics claim that Jonathan is still not ripe for the big stage. Many still feel that Jonathan is not ripe for the big stage her penalty saves at the 2010 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup.
Strengths—Needs encouragement
Weaknesses—Lacks players confidence and not proactive

Tochukwu Oluehi
Date of birth: 02.05.1987  
Height: 150 cm 
Weight: 64 kg 
Club: Sunshine Queens
FIFA World Cup Appearances: 2006 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup, 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup
Over time Oluehi has proved that she is competent to fit into the shoes of Precious Dede when the latter decides to hang her gloves. Until that day comes,Oluehi has continued to drum support for Dede who she has always referred as her big sister.
Strengths—good reflexes and can organize her defence very well
Weaknesses—Absent minded

Faith Ikidi
Position:  Defender
Date of birth: 28-02-1987 
Club: Linköping Sweden
FIFA World Cup apperances: 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup
2006 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup, Russia
Faith is one of Nigeria’s most trusted and dependable defenders as far as the women’s game is concerned. It was her versatility and indispensability was what earned her an automatic shirt in the squad despite not reporting to the team’s Austria camp on time. The Swedish based player will be aiming to make up for her absence at last year’s Africa Women Championship by living up to expecatations. The Bayelsa state defender was caught up between club and country prior to the championship.
Strengths: Faith enjoys playing in the central defence but can also play in other positions when the occasion demands. Standing at 5.8, she has a nice way of clipping her opponents. U.S.A big forward Abby Wambach can attest to the defender’s credential. This was after both teams met at the 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup in China. Enjoys a fantastic rapport with colleagues and has the ability to use both legs effectively.
Weakness/es: Her recovery rate for a defender has been called into questioning in some occasions. She was heavily criticized for her inabiliity to connect during Nigeria’s second leg All Africa Games qualifier against Ghana in Accra.

Ulunma Jerome
Date of Birth: 11-04-1988
Position: Defender
Club: Pitea IF of Swedish 
Record at FIFA Tournaments Tournaments 
FIFA Women’s World Cup Final 2007 
FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup Final 2004, 2006, 2008 
Ulumma has come of age and would be best remembered for her defence splitting pass to Perpetua Nkwocha that resulted in Nigeria’s opening goal against Equatorial Guinea in the final of the Africa Women Championship last year in South Africa. It was Perpetua’s 11th goal of the competition. Obviously Jerome would be looking forward to something similar in Germany. Something else, Ulunma cannot wait for is Nigeria’s second group game against Germany to avenge the 8-0 loss humiliation in last year’s international friendly.
Strengths: A good team player and excellent aierial abilities
Wakness/es: Slow recovery rate, heavy and can easily be displaced by an intellegent attacker.

Helen Ukaonu
Date of birth: 17.05.1991  
Club: Sunnanå SK  of Sweden
Position: Defender
World Cup appearance: 2010 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup
Helen Ukaonu’s thunder against USA in the quarter final of the 2010 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup was chosen by the FIFA assessment team as the ten most outstanding goals of the tournament. Since then, Ukaonu caught the attention of Falcons handler, Eucharia Uche who invited her for the Africa Women Championship. Like they say, the rest is history. Among close watchers, the former Delta Queens player is regarded as one of the most disciplined defenders in the country.
Strengths- Good freekick specialist, confident on the ball and good in the air
Weakness/es—Average speed

Onome Ebi 
Date of birth: 05.08.1983  
Height: 179 cm 
Weight: 66 kg
Position: Defender 
Club: Duvenciler, Turkey
FIFA World Cup Appearances: 2003, 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup
The Super Falcons player has just made a big move to Turkish side, Duvenciler for an undisclosed fee after enjoying a good spell in the Swedish topflight. However, this could be the last World Cup for the 28 years old ex-Delta Queens player who has paid her dues.
Strengths—Fearless, long kicks
Weakness/es—lacks speed, poor reaction

Osinachi Ohale 
Date of birth: 21-12- 1991 
Position: Defender 
Height: 174 cm. 
FIFA World Cup Appearances: 2010 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup
Club-Delta Queens, Nigeria
Ohale has been nicknamed “Woman Mountain” by former Abia State Governor, Orji Uzor Kalu. This was after an impressive outing at the women junior championship in Germany which she repeated at the Africa Women Championship. The Delta Queens of Asaba defender showed great confidence at the AWC that policing Equatorial Guinea’s Salimata Simpore in the final game posed no problem. The player who is blessed with good height could be the suitable replacement for ex-captain Kikelomo Ajayi.
Strengths— Very disciplined defender, committment is great, good speed,  tight marker and good aerial abilities.
Weakness/es—momentary lack of concentration

Rebecca Kalu
Date of birth: 12-06-1990
FIFA World Cup Appearances: 2008, 2010 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup
Club: Rivers Angels
Position: Midfield
Women footballers are not blessed with good looks unlike tennis players or athletes. Maybe the physical nature of the sport could be the reason. So when a female footballer begins to enjoy so much admiration from the men folk for her looks, then it must be worth the look. This is the story of Rivers Angels midfielder, Rebecca Kalu. The ex-Falconets player has been adjudged the prettiest Falcons player under chief Coach, Eucharia Uche. What this implies is that the men will be encouraged to watch all the matches of the team because of a single player. Good omen for the girls.
Another plus for the player is that she has been likened to former Nigeria international and current Director of Sports Development at the National Sports Commission (NSC), Patrick Ekeji.
Strengths— Good ball distribution
Weakness/es— Not strong and not a good marker

Glory Iroka 
Date of Birth:  3-01-1990
Club: Rivers Angels
Position: Midfield
FIFA World Cup Apperance: 2010 FIFA Women’s World Cup, 2008 FIFA Women’s World Cup
Iroka may have the experience but she may be denied enough paying time by coach Eucharia. But one thing is however certain that she is a player for the future.
Strenghths—Experienced midfileder, good passes
Weakness/es—Small in height

Rita Chikwelu
Date of Birth: 06-03-1988
Club: Umea FC of Sweden
Position: Midfield
FIFA World Cup Apperances:  2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup, 2004,2006, 2008, FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup
It is very clear that the No10s are the players to watch in any game. They are the driving force for their respective teams. Rita Chikwelu is Falcons motivational player. She will be heavily counted on by coach Eucharia Uche as Nigeria files out against France tomorrow in their opening group game. Fortunately for Rita, she would have the opportunity of revenging 3-2 loss against the French team that occurred during the  2008 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup quarter final game in Chile. Rita was the captain of the Nigerian side handled by Daniel Evumena.
Strengths— Strong on the ball, good dribbler and experienced
Weaknesses—The pace may no longer be there

Ebere Orji
Date of birth: 23-12-1992
Position: Forward
Club: Rivers Angels
FIFA World Cup Appearances: 2008, FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup, 2008, 2010 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup
Ebere has not really lived up to expectations since making her debut for the Super Falcons last year. So not much is expected from the Rivers Angels forward in Germany even though it is a familiar terrain. The player was part of the national team that reached the final of the last year’s FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup hosted by Germany.
Strengths— Good speed, deadly in front of goal and full of energy
Weakness/es—lazy player and sometimes indecisive in attack

Ogonna Chukwudi
Date of Birth: 14-09-1988
Club: Umea IK
Position: Midfield
FIFA Tournaments Tournaments Editions:   2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup,  FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup Final 2006, 2008
Ogonna showed flashes of the stuff that she is made off during Falcons last group game against U.S.A in China in 2007. An effective left winger, Ogonna would be useful to Coach Uche if Falcons adopt the wing play.  
Strengths— Fast and technical left winger. Useful for offensive game
Weakness—A one legged player

Desire Oparanozie 
Date of birth: 17-12-1993  
Place of birth:  Nigeria 
Delta Queens: Forward
FIFA World Cup Appearances: 2008 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup, 2010 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup
If there is any Nigerian player that the German defenders would keep an eye on it will be Oparanozie. The sudden interest stems from the views of its coach, Silva Neid, who has described the junior international as Nigeria’s biggest revelation. She told the press after watching the youngster shine at the 2010 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup. Both teams face each other on June 30 in Frankfurt in the all important game that the Falcons have been tagged the underdogs.  The Delta Queens attacker who is Turkey bound burst into national limelight in 2008 when she represented Nigeria in the colors of the U-17 National female team-The Flamingoes in New Zealand. Last year, Oparonozie scored three goals during the Africa Women Championship.
Strengths: Pace, Passion, Fearlessness, relentlessness
Weakness/es: A selfish player and cannot dribble properly

Francisca Ordega
Date of birth: 19 Oct 1993
Club: Bayelsa Queens
FIFA World Cup Apperances: 2010 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup 
Position: Forward.
Stakeholders have described Ordega as a dream attacker. Can this Bayelsa Queens player prove her worth among the more established attackers?
Strengths—Strong, agile, good in one on one situation, packed with shots in both legs
Weakness— Poor delivery

Sarah Michael
Date of Birth: 22-07-1990 
FIFA World Cup Appearances: 2008 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup
Position: Forward
Club: KIF Orebo
Nicknamed the modern day forward, however Sarah Michael has not been fortunate with the Super Falcons. Ordinarily her rating should have risen after the 2008 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in Chile. Unfortunately the former Delta Queens forward whose goal qualified Nigeria for the quarter final of the championship is still struggling to make an impression. Obviously she would be looking forward to a good outing in Germany so as to silence her critics who feel that her foreign sojourn has not transformed her game let alone given her the opportunity to shine on the big stage. Not even the seven goals she has scored for Danish club Orebo last season has been able to convince them
Strengths— Blessed with good shots and wonderful ball control
Weakness/es—Loss of confidence and is considered slow for an attacker.

Esther Sunday 
Date of birth:  13-03- 1992 
Position: Attacker 
Height: 160 cm
FIFA World Cup Appearances: 2010  FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup  
Club: Sunshine queens
Weakness— Not an intelligent player, finishing is poor

Amenze Aighewi
Date of Birth: 21-11-1991
FIFA World Cup Appearances:  2008 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup
Club:  Rivers Angels
Position: Attack
Aighewi may have impressed Coach Uche at the team’s final training in Saalfeden in Austria, but the Rivers Angels striker is one of the few players who is in Germany to understudy.
Strengths— Has speed
Weakness —  She has inexperience working against her

Perpetua Nkwocha
Date of Birth:  03-01-1976
Club: Sunnanå SK of Sweden
Position: Attacking midfielder
A lot has been said about the playing career of Perpetua Nkwocha. Armed with a rich C.V that boasts of three Africa female player awards, two World Cup appearances and Africa’s highest goal scorer in the women’s game, Nkwocha who is 34 years old is yet to give up. Playing in her third World Cup final, Nkwocha would be the rallying point for the Falcons in their quest to surpass their quarter final ticket.
Strengths—Inspirational, ability to score goals at ease, good pace
Weaknesses—Could be selfish with the ball, and tends to go solo  

Stella Mbachu
Date of birth: 16.04.1978  
Club: Rivers Angels
Position: Midfield
FIFA World Cup Appearances: 1999, 2003, 2007 FIFA Women’s World Cup
Mbachu was a delight to watch in those good days from the right flank where she operates from. Her blistering pace and intelligent crosses were a threat to the oppossing team. But age is beginning to tell on the player whose deliveries lately have come under knocks. Chief among them was her performance at the 2010 Africa Women Championship. So anyone sticking her neck for the three time World Cup veteran in Germany may be doing so at his own risk
Weaknesses—Not skillful

Josephine Chukwunonye
Date of Birth: 19-03-1992
FIFA World Cup Appearances: 2008 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup
Club: Rivers Angels
She  missed the 2010 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup party due to injury. The Rivers Angels defender would however be contented watching the matches from the bench as there is no way she can wrest the central defence position from Onome Ebi.
Strengths—Very good marker
Weaknesses—loses confidence easily

By Ejiro Femi-Babafemi

Falcons begin quest for World Cup glory
The senior national female team,  the Super Falcons are a dominant force in Africa, winning all the African titles except one which they lost to Equatorial Guinea in 2008 but that feat is yet to be established at the world level.

They also have the credit of being the only African team to have appeared in all FIFA Women’s World Cup since its inception in China in 1991 but their performance have always been appalling except their quarter-final placing in 1999 in the United States.

Today in far away Germany, as they begin another World Cup journey  in an attempt to   claim some elusive silverware at the highest level, more questions have once again been asked about this Super Falcons team.

However, this time they seem more determined, more focused and more wise about appreciating their considerable experience. Most of the players of a famed “golden generation” are on their last lap and probably playing at their last world championship, and they should certainly be driven to go out with one last hurrah for these stars of African football.

After wrapping up yet another continental triumph at the Africa Women’s Championship in South Africa in November, the Super Falcons shifted their attention to Germany 2011 where they will be expected to elevate their game against some of the world’s most decorated teams.

For a side that has always been blessed with talent and natural goalscorers, their problems at previous tournaments might be said to run deeper than strictly the level of ability in the team.

Whether they can put aside their anxieties and play to the standard they are capable of will be the big question for the African champions.

Questions were asked about the ability of  the first woman to handle the team, Eucharia Uche, with rumours at a time that the Nigeria Football Federation, NFF were in search of a foreign technical adviser.

The foreigner they got but the NFF were quick to say he was going to assist Uche after some stakeholders in female football in the country queried the essence of bringing in a whiteman to reap where he did not sow. In this quest to better their 1999 record, coach Uche will rely mostly on the duo of Stella Mbachu and Perpetua Nkwocha who remain the most potent weapons of the Super Falcons.

Although they are both probably on their way off of the international stage, both Mbachu and Nkwocha have been enjoying a rich vein of form lately. They will want to make a mark at this World Cup which hopefully will mark the end of their international career.

 Iloh urges NFF to boost Falcons

 Former Nigeria Cycling Federation, NFF president, Rev. Moses Iloh has called on the Nigeria Football Federation, NFF to ensure that the Super Falcons are psychologically boosted for effective result at the World Cup.

“What the Falcons need now is some psychological boost. I was listening to some one on the radio recently talking about the neglect of female footballers, so whatever can be done to give them some psychological boost now should be done because they do not lack talent nor skill, unity or ability  but certainly they feel unappreciated because they are girls. They should be treated specially. So my suggestion is that, the NFF should please do what they can for them to ensure that the  girls are happy and appreciated, and  they will be surprised what those girls will do at the World Cup.

On Nigeria’s grouping with Germany, France and Canada, the firebrand preacher, said: “Whether we are grouped with stronger teams or not, all I’m saying is that the NFF should ensure that the girls are well appreciated just the way their male counterparts in our national team are being appreciated before and after a match.

Let them have some kind of boosts not promises. And then let them know that if they win there is a better tomorrow. These are Nigerian daughters for goodness sake, they need to be appreciated and not neglected.”

By Kate Obodo

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