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Super Falcons open Abuja camp for must-win Bayana Bayana clash

Nine-time African champions the Super Falcons’ camp for the must-win African final qualifying fixture for this year’s Women’s Olympic Football Tournament against the Bayana Bayana…

Nine-time African champions the Super Falcons’ camp for the must-win African final qualifying fixture for this year’s Women’s Olympic Football Tournament against the Bayana Bayana of South Africa opened yesterday in Abuja.

Captain and chief motivator Rasheedat Ajibade was among the early birds in camp.

The two teams, arguably the best women football squads on the African continent, are at each other’s jugular for one of the two tickets from Africa for Paris 2024 Olympics women’s football, with the first leg taking place at the MKO Abiola National Stadium, Abuja on Friday. The return is scheduled for the Loftus Versfeld arena in Pretoria five days later.

Ajibade, whose savvy, skill and sapience helped the Falcons to the Round of 16 at last year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup in Down Under, was joined in the roost by home-based goalkeeper Linda Jiwuaku and defender Jumoke Alani (drafted in following injury to Saudi Arabia-based Ashleigh Plumptre) as early birds.

Young defender Shukurat Oladipo, veteran goalkeeper Tochukwu Oluehi, Japan-based Chidinma Okeke and Spain-based forward Gift Monday are expected in camp today.

The rest of the squad will be in by tomorrow, though USA-based African queen Asisat Oshoala is not expected until Thursday.

South Africa’s delegation, including 24 players, will land in Abuja later today.

According to the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), the Super Falcons are extra-motivated for this fixture, having not beaten the Banyana in regulation time for many years now, and having watched as the South Africans carted away the Women Africa Cup of Nations trophy in Morocco last year after the Banyana edged them 2-1 in a group phase match.

However, the Super Falcons still call the shots at that level though, with nine of 12 titles contested so far, and with a squad brimming with youth and experience, and the bounce of having been Africa’s best performer at the last World Cup finals – unbeaten in regulation time until their exit via penalty shootout defeat to England.

In 2018 when they won their ninth title, the Banyana were the victims after a penalty shootout at the Accra Sports Stadium.

Both legs of the fixture are of the potentially-explosive quality.

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