The Super Falcons of Nigeria are in the Group B of the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup to be co-hosted by New Zealand and Australia.
The FIFA Women World Cup is scheduled to take place over a period of one month, starting from 20 July to 20 August 2023.
This is the first time the event will be co-hosted by two countries and also the first senior World Cup to be held across multiple confederations.
The Nigerian women football team, also known as the Super Falcons, have been pitched in group B alongside Australia, Canada and Republic of Ireland.
Nigeria has previously played the Canadian and Australian women’s national teams at the FIFA World Cup.
The Canadians have been unable to defeat Nigeria at the World Cup, drawing 3-3 in 1995 and losing 1-0 in 2011.
Nigeria’s meeting with Australia at the FIFA World Cup in 2015 ended in a 2-0 victory in favour of the Australians.
On the other hand, Ireland and the Super Falcons have never met before, with the Europeans playing in the FIFA World Cup for the first time this year.
In preparation for the World Cup, Nigeria played friendly games against the USWNT, Canadian women’s national team and Nadeshiko of Japan.
Japan beat Nigeria 2-0 in October, while the US Women National Team defeated the Nigerian side 4-0 on September 6 and 2-1 in the same month in 2022.
The Super Falcons have won the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations 11 times, being the dominant team in the continent and have played in every FIFA Women’s World Cup since 1991. Their best finish at the FIFA senior women tournament remains in the quarterfinal.
The Super Falcons were eliminated in the group stage in their first two World Cups. It wasn’t until the 1999 edition hosted by the United States of America that they managed to reach the knockouts.
Since then, the Nigeria women’s football team has been trying but to no avail to match the accomplishments of the 1999 version of the side.
This is basically due to the sheer technical distance between themselves and their opponents, failing to make it out of the group stage and managing just a single win in four editions: 2003, 2007, 2011, and 2015.
Although Nigeria made it to the round of 16 in 2019, they could not make it to the quarter-finals as they were beaten 3-0 by Germany.
Fast Forward to 2023, Nigerian coach Randy Waldrum will be picking his 23-man squad from a majority of foreign-based stars as was seen in their last friendly match that had 22 foreign-based players and one home-base professional, being a goalkeeper from Abia Angels.
Waldrum’s squad for their last friendly game in October was made up of:
For Nigeria to progress from the Group B of the World Cup would largely depend on the technical ability of their manager. This is because the Super Falcons are made up of talented footballers who just require the technical know-how of a sound tactician to explode.
The 66-year-old Waldrum has managed other teams since 1978, when he took over the Pittsburg State University Women’s team and has been in charge of many American universities, in both men’s and women’s sides.
The Trinidad and Tobago Women’s side, which he managed in 2014, was his first national team experience before he was appointed by those in charge of Nigerian football.
Nigeria offered him the job after he was fired by Trinidad and Tobago after two years and he turned down the Nigerian job.
Nigeria returned for him again in October 2020; this time, Waldrum accepted the job and was appointed the head coach of Nigeria women’s national football team.
One of the coaches Waldrum must surely come against at the tournament is Beverly Priestman of Canada, an English professional manager.
Priestman knows in and out of the Canada national team, having managed the U17, U20 and now the senior women’s team. She has also served as an assistant manager of the England Women’s national team, a position she left for her current job. Priestman has led Canada to 9 wins, 5 draws and 3 loses in 17 games.
Canada is always a country to beat when it comes to women’s football with most of their players playing in top clubs in the USA, the Premier League, the French Ligue 1 and other top leagues in America and Europe.
Canada are Olympic champions after winning the Tokyo 2020 Women’s Olympic Football Tournament in Yokohama, Japan. Canada were the 3-2 winners on kicks from the penalty mark after a 1:1 draw with Sweden in the Friday Gold Medal Final at Yokohama Stadium.
Canada were unbeaten across six matches and achieved their best-ever result at the Olympic Games while also winning their third consecutive medal, thus “changing the colour of their medal” from back-to-back Bronze at London 2012 and Rio 2016 to Gold at Tokyo 2020.
This marks the first time that Canada Soccer’s National Teams have won a major world tournament (FIFA World Cup or Olympic Games). And analysts believe that Priestman’s team would be going into the World Cup stronger than ever.
Tony Gustavsson is a highly experienced manager and a former footballer who has managed numerous club sides and was the assistant coach of the United States National Women. He has guided Australia to 12 wins, 5 draws and 13 loses in 30 games.
Australia parades some of the finest players in football at the moment such as Sam Kerr who plays for Chelsea. The forward won various awards in the 2021-22 season. She claimed the 2021-22 PFA Player of the Year award after scoring 20 goals in the league and made history by becoming the only female player to win the Golden Boot award in three different leagues on three different continents.
Nigerian defenders will battle Kerr, who is the first woman in the history of the game to feature on the cover of the FIFA video game’s global edition.
When it comes to national team football, Dutch football manager and former player, Vera Pauw, the coach of the Republic of Ireland women’s national team is the most experienced of the other coaches in Group B.
She has managed several national women’s football teams, including Scotland, Netherlands, Russia and South Africa. Uner Pauw, the Ireland Women National Team has played 18 games, won eleven, drawn three and lost just four. Pauw’s team has been widely tipped to cause an upset at the tournament being their first ever women’s World Cup.
Speaking on the chances of Nigeria at the tournament, Andrew Randa, a football analyst who works with the Communication department of the Nigeria Football Federation, NFF, says he does not see the Nigerian women crossing the group stages.
“I don’t think it’s about the technical know-how of the coach. You can have all the technicalities in the world but if you don’t have the players to execute your plans it would amount to nothing especially if you are up against players who are more mature, experienced, versatile and more technically superior. In tournament circumstances, it would be very difficult.
“Take for instance, Australia is one of the best teams in the world and at this particular point our Falcons are not exactly the team they used to be. At the last World Cup in France in 2019, Nigeria could not go as far as expected even though some of the players were in their pick.
“Anything can happen but to be realistic, tournaments are tricky. It’s not like the league…if you rate the teams in that group with the strength they have, I’ll probably say Australia first, Canada second, Nigeria third and Ireland fourth. That is looking at past experiences and pre-tournament form.
“But that is not to say that Nigeria would not be able to come second or even first. Australia is one of the best teams. Sam Kerr is probably among the top three players in the world.
“Australian female football has come big in the last couple of years and remember Canada played the final of the last Olympics and this gives you an idea of what to expect.”
Speaking of the Nigerian coach, Waldrum being the lowest ranked in terms of exposure and experience compared to the other coaches in the group, Randa said that does not matter.
He continued, “You can see coaches without experience defeating those with loads of experience. Things happen in tournaments that you never expect. We can only analyse based on what is in the group at the moment. Nigeria normally does well against lesser European teams in tournaments.
“We tend to be better than South Americans or North Americans. So when you add all of these together what you get is that we are going to struggle at the World Cup.
“The coach might try his best… depending on how he sets up his team and how determined the players are. I’ve looked at the group myself and if you put me on the spot right now and ask me if Nigeria will qualify from the group, I’ll tell you no for obvious reasons.”