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FIFA Women’s World Cup: Can Super Falcons fly to glory this time?

Again, the players and the federation are at odds over what they will be paid for playing in the World Cup.

The 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup kicks off today in Australia and New Zealand.

The Super Falcons traditionally have been the strongest team in Africa, with nine Women’s Africa Cup of Nations titles and eight World Cup appearances. But this year, Nigeria is entering the World Cup with disappointment after placing fourth in the continental championship a year ago.

Also, they have only reached the quarter-finals of the World Cup once and there are doubts if they can do any better this time following the dramas that surrounded the preparation for the football fiesta.

In the build-up to the World Cup, the Super Falcons had fewer training days together than the head coach of the team, Randy Waldrum, would have liked after the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) cancelled a training camp in Nigeria.

The coach criticized the Nigerian football body for not providing enough support to the team even as he received a rebuke from the NFF for his outburst.

“I think the players have appreciated the fact that I will step up for them and speak out on their behalf,” Waldrum said of his comments about the federation’s financial support for his team. “As a coach, I need to be a voice for the girls and fight for the things that they deserve to be getting.”

Again, the players and the federation are at odds over what they will be paid for playing in the World Cup. There were rumours that the players would boycott their opening match against Canada if issues surrounding their finances were not sorted out. However, the players put that kind of speculation to rest in separate interviews.

This same scenario played out at the 2019 World Cup and at last year’s Africa Cup of Nations when the team staged sit-ins at their hotels to protest a lack of payments the players said they were owed by the federation.

Change of focus

The Super Falcons will open their Women’s World Cup campaign against Canada on Friday and all attention is now on the task ahead.

“Forget about the distractions, and just focus on the game,” star striker Asisat Oshoala, who plays for Barcelona, said after a training session in Brisbane this week.

“We’re used to being in this situation now,” Oshoala said. “At the end of the day the girls understand it’s about their career, it’s about the nation first, and we’re going to go out there and play regardless.”

Waldrum, who coaches the University of Pittsburgh women’s soccer team, has the same mindset. “What we’ve said is out there. Now let’s set it aside and focus on football,” he said. “Everything has always been about football.”

Nigeria is focusing on placing in the top two in Group B, which includes Olympic champion Canada, tournament co-host Australia and tournament newcomer Ireland.

Achieving that goal will ensure Nigeria advances to the round of 16 and at least match its run at the 2019 Women’s World Cup.

Star player

The Super Falcons will be looking up to the Barcelona star striker, Oshoala, to deliver the goods when they begin battle at the world cup.

Oshoala has been listed among the top 10 stars who could have a major impact in their nation’s hunt for glory at the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup. The current African Woman Player of the Year winner was the only player from the African continent that was featured.

If they are to truly make their mark on the global stage this time around, then 28-year-old Oshoala will be key.

“When you have Oshoala, you have a chance against any team,” said Waldrum, referring both to the striker’s goal record – 83 strikes in 89 Barcelona league matches – and trophy haul.

Oshoala’s honours feature a Champions League title, three African championships for Nigeria, back-to-back titles from a spell in China, and a Women’s FA Cup from 2016 with Arsenal. She won the BBC Women’s Footballer of the Year award in 2015 while with Liverpool.

Group Stage Schedule

Nigeria’s first game will be against Canada at the 28,870-capacity Melbourne Rectangular Stadium in Australia at 12:30pm local time. The implication of this is that Nigerians and Super Falcons fans will watch the team play at 3:30am of the same day.

The second game will be against Australia on Thursday, July 27 at 20:00pm local time at the 56,851-capacity Brisbane Stadium. In Nigeria, the game will be on at 11:00am.

The Falcons’ final group game will be at the same stadium against the Republic of Ireland on Monday, July 31 at 20:00 pm local time. In Nigeria, the game will be at 11:00am.

Can the Super Falcons fly beyond the stages they reached in the previous mundias this time round? All eyes are on the team!

Nigeria 2023 Women’s World Cup Roster
Tochukwu Oluehi
Ashleigh Plumptre
Osinachi Ohale
Glory Ogbonna
Onome Ebi
Ifeoma Onumonu
Toni Payne
Asisat Oshoala
Desire Oparanozie
Christy Ucheibe
Gift Monday
Uchenna Kanu
Deborah Abiodun
Oluwatosin Demehin
Rasheedat Ajibade
Chiamaka Nnadozie
Francisca Ordega
Halimatu Ayinde
Onyi Echegini
Rofiat Imuran
Esther Okoronkwo
Michelle Alozie
Yewande Balogun

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