Monday, August 22, 2011

Super Falcons step up preparation ahead of Cameroun clash

The Abuja camp of the senior women’s national team, the Super Falcons, is a beehive of activities as the coach Eucharia Uche-led team intensifies training for the Olympics qualifier against the Lionesses of Cameroun coming up on August 27 at the Abuja National Stadium.

Uche and members of her team are aware of the enormous task ahead after failing to qualify for next month’s All African Games coming up in Maputo, Mozambique and also failing to live to expectations at the last women’s World Cup in Germany.

Already the gaffer whose contract with the team expired after the Germany World Cup has only been given a 45-days extension by the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) thus suggesting that the only way to retain her job will be to qualify the women’s team for the London 2012 Olympic Games.

Neighbours, Cameroun could be regarded as a familiar foe to the Falcons with the last meeting both teams being the semi-final clash at last year’s Africa Women’s Championships in South Africa where the Super Falcons thrashed the Indomitable Lionesses by 5-1.

While Uche remains upbeat that Nigeria will get the ticket to London 2012, she was quick to note that it will not just be a stroll in the park.

“The Camerounians are tough customers anytime and they will always give us a fight when we play them, right now we are preparing well for the game and by the grace of God we can be sure of victory” Eucharia enthused.

On the unavailability of most of the invited foreign pros, she explained that the clubs where the players ply their trade are reluctant to release the players as she has now extended the grace to join the camp to August 23.

Uche says she and her assistants will not condone nor tolerate players indiscipline in training and warns any player who wants to play God to have a rethink.

“I do not believe any player is indispensable. No player can hold this team to ransom. No player is bigger than a team and so any player who thinks the team cannot do without her should have a rethink otherwise she will be left out” she said.

With the team’s twice daily training the coaches said they have been able to ascertain the fitness level of each player. Some of the new invitees are finding it difficult to cope with training while the old players have adjusted perfectly to their daily routine.

Players talk tough

Already the players in camp are already talking tough as most of them see the Cameroun game as another chance to prove their mettle.

Delta Queens striker, Desire Oparanozie, has promised to do her best to help Super Falcons qualify for the London 2012 Olympics. Opararnozie who expressed disappointment at her performance at the just concluded Women’s World Cup in Germany appealed to Nigerians to put the World Cup behind them and give the team full support when they take on Cameroun.

“I know Nigerians are sad about our World Cup performance but I promise them that we will put smiles on their faces again by qualifying for the Olympics which will come next year. We are serious with our training because we will surely beat Cameroun,” Oparanozie boasted.

Also Super Falcons attacking midfielder, Ebere Orji, who was part of the team that played at the just concluded FIFA Women’s World Cup in Germany says playing in the Olympics will be another dream come true for her.

“Our loss in Ghana means that we will not participate in the forthcoming All Africa Games. That will not repeat itself for the Olympics. After not qualifying for the All Africa Games, I cannot imagine us missing out for the Olympics. Cameroun cannot stop us”

“Aside from the All Africa Games which we did not qualify for, the Olympics is the other championship I have not attended and so we will make sure we pick that ticket to be at next year’s Olympics.”

Ebere is one among the few Super Falcons players who have represented Nigeria at all of the age categories. She has featured at the Under 17 (New Zealand 2008), Under 20 (Chile 2008) and Under 20 (Germany 2010) World Cups. She was also at the Africa Women’s Championship (South Africa 2010) and the FIFA Women’s World Cup (Germany 2011).

Stella Mbachu, Rivers Angels striker and one of the finest players to have played for Super Falcons, says the team did not bargain for its early exit the just Women’s World Cup at the first round:

“That is football; so unpredictable. We believed we would qualify from our group but everything went wrong after losing the first game.

“We surprised Germany in our second match. You know after our friendly with them last year which they beat us 8-0, they thought it would be the same score line. We are proud we played well against Germany; we were not disgraced but rather Germany lost their invincibility. After that match other teams knew that with hard work and determination they can hold their own against them. But the question everyone will ask is: who won? If you play well and you do not win you have not played anything. On that day Germany won not with huge score line but they beat us and we are so sad about that”.

Mbachu, who was voted the Most Valuable Player (MVP) in Nigeria’s last match against Canada, said:

“You know that was my last World Cup so I was so happy when I was voted the MVP for that match. We told ourselves we would not leave the tournament without winning a match; that was why we played our hearts out and got the result against Canada.

Safe hands

Meanwhile, the team’s goalkeeper trainer Bala Mohammed Risky, believes the three goalkeepers in camp are fit and ready to take on any opposition.

“For these two weeks we have stayed in camp there is no problem with the goalkeepers, now we have another two weeks to go and I know if there is any problem we will sort that out but I do not foresee any problem.

“My goalkeepers are okay and they are fit. I can only talk about goalkeepers because that is my department”.

On the preparedness of the goalkeepers against Lionesses of Cameroun in the forth coming London 2012 qualifiers, “against Cameroun, my goalkeepers are ready and equal to the task. Anyone I choose on match day will deliver; I have so much confidence in them. We will beat Cameroun” Bala said.
By Tunde Eludini

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