Super Falcons show improvement in loss to US Women

The Super Falcons of Nigeria ended their participation in the 2021 WNT Summer Series with a loss to the United States Women’s National Team (USWNT) via two stoppage-time goals at the end of each half to leave the series without a win. They started with a loss to the Reggae Girlz of Jamaica, drew with the Seleccao das Quintas of Portugal before the tie against the USWNT.

However, coach Randy Waldrum will take consolation from the fact that the team improved with each game especially after the arrival of team captain and Primera Iberdrola Barcelona striker Asisat Oshoala, who formed an ideal partnership with fellow League striker, Rasheedat Ajibade, of Atletico Madrid Femenino in the 3-3 draw against Portugal.

However, against the World champions, the Nigerian ladies came up empty in the match that was used to launch Austin’s new Q2 Stadium. The USWNT opened the stadium with victory in their ninth meeting and ninth win against a side from the Confederation of African Football (CAF), the previous other two being against Bayana Bayana of South Africa.

The Super Falcons demonstrated an attacking inclination from the onset, which must have been a tactical plan from the American coach knowing the pedigre of the home side. The game was a physical affair with the Falcons resolved to limit the danger posed from the attacking flair of the Americans with hard tackles while getting upfield with the ball at every opportunity.

Christen Press had the honor of scoring the first goal at the brand new $260 million stadium, when the USWNT finally broke through the Nigerian defense in stoppage time of the first half. Carli Lloyd was credited with the assist as she laid the ball in before it fell to an unmarked Press, whose curling first-time shot beat Tochukwu Oluehi, in the Nigerian goal.

The Nigerian ladies had a tough game breaking through the defense of their opponents and often lost possession before making a threat of the USA goal. Becky Sauerbrunn, Crystal Dunn, Kelley O’Hara, and Abby Dahlkemper were on hand to restrain the incursions of the pair of Nigerian forwards, Oshoala and Ajibade, giving them and others who tried to advance to the USWNT goal a hard time.

It was also tough for the four-time FIFA World Cup champions to add to their tally as well with the physicality of the Nigerian defense and the athleticism of Oluehi’s goalkeeping, which was splendid throughout the Summer Series. When Press went for what could have been a brace in the game for her through an 85th minute first-time pile driver from a rolling cross from USWNT icon Megan Rapinoe, Oluehi was there to keep it out nicely.

Vlatko Andonovski’s inspired substitutions in the second half had a say in the final outcome. Lynn Williams, in for Rapinoe, doubled the American advantage after receiving a through-ball from Press. She turned on the pace to get in behind the defense and found the back of the net to wrap up the contest in the fourth minute of second-half extra time.

Though the Falcons were not disgraced out of the encounter, they found it difficult to break the tactics and strategic control of the game that the USWNT held over the match. The ladies were however not intimidated by the illustrious world champions who were playing in one of their longest unbeaten streak at 42 games and counting.

As friendly matches go, the lessons from the Series will provide Waldrum most of the information he needs to fix areas where the team requires improvements and fashion out a team formation and structure to approach the style and nature of opponents that they will undoubtedly face especially as the Super Falcons now set their sights on getting ready for the African Women’s Cup of Nations qualifiers.

Newsmen recall that the ladies from Nigeria are up against rivals, the Black Queens of Ghana in the expanded 2022 Women’s Africa Cup that fixed 22 ties based on geography rather than any ranking system as was previously the case.

The Super Falcons are record nine-time champions of the continental competition and are defending champions having won the last edition in 2018, which Ghana hosted.