I watched the Falconets during qualification for the 2016 FIFA U20 Women’s World Cup qualifiers against Liberia while streaming the game live from Monrovia. I took off my journalistic cap and felt so proud to be a Nigerian because of the way the players performed.
The side improved steadily throughout the qualifiers and eventually sealed their place.
What this piece will attempt to do is to examine the many positives that have emerged from this Falconets team.
Peter Dedevbo makes a good return
One cannot continue without mentioning the contributions of coach Wemimo Mathew who is the assistant of the Delta born gaffer.
I used to be his hard earned critic due to his selection policy and that had changed over time.
But you can’t rule out the fact that Dedevbo has instilled a lot of confidence in the team, many of whose players are plying their trade in the Nigeria Women’s Premier League. Most of the players had not been to a major tournament before and it was a delight to watch how Dedevbo gave the team tactical organisation, especially in the games against DR Congo.
I remember remarking to a colleague that it was a game where Nigeria looked so tactically disciplined that the Congolese simply could not break through.
The Falconets attacked and defended as a unit and it clearly showed.
Nevertheless, he has resumed his exploits in the team’s camping exercise in Abuja.
His decision not to invite a pool of crowd to camp leaves him covered in glory and together with his technical team, Dedevbo deserves a huge pat on the back.
Will the time be enough for him to mould a solid squad like we saw in Canada two years ago?
Yetunde Adeboyejo – Tournament nerves
This is a player with so much promises and talents. But her performance at tournaments calls for questions.
Going down memory lane, she is usually a hit in qualifiers and vanishes at the big stage.
Perhaps this might be the time for her to surprise her critics.
Joy Bokiri – She dictates the pace of games the way she wants. The Bayelsa Queens skipper revels as the diamond. A free kick specialist whose passes are usually accurate.
Ogechi Ukwuoma – another midfield marshal in the making
The first time I saw Ogechi play was in the 2013 for Pelican Stars against Ibom Angels in Uyo and even then, I was hugely impressed with the maturity with which she played in front of the back four which belied her young age.
Her move to Delta Queens was hailed as a transfer coup and she has continued to play with finesse and panache.
She was a true leader on the pitch for the Falconets, with superb reading of the game and excellent organizational skills. Indeed she brought out the best in her colleagues at the back and she is playing just like Effionwan Ekpo did in her prime for the Super Falcons.
If she continues in this vein, she could make a gatecrashing entry into the Super Falcons squad to the 2016 AWCON.
Famuditi Kemi – Emerging as a force
She showed what an excellent full back she is and her delivery from set pieces are not bad either. She is one to watch for the future, especially with the Super Falcons’ problems at right back.
Kemi’s story is indeed remarkable. She wasn’t a regular at Sunshine Queens before her move to Confluence Queens. She has the capacity to be excellent as a centre half and it is a credit to her that she is versatile.
Ologbosere will be crucial
The name Mary Ologbosere is always on the lips of Ibom Angels supporters. The defender is very hardworking, with her crosses and coverage her major assets. She is a typical modern day full back who likes to run through the channels to support the attack.
Osas Igbinovia offers experience
Osas also came into the team and showed what a good central midfielder she can be. Her brilliance in the game against South Africa showed that she is a player with great promise and her inclusion in the Super Falcons confirms how technically sound she is. Her experience in the last two tournaments will be needed in Papua New Guinea.
Patience Kalu – Quality at it best
Packs ferocious shot in her boot. No doubt, she is one of the hottest prospects in the Nigeria Women Premier League. Her deadly left foot makes opponents shiver.
Kalu’s displays from the flank is the flavour that a serious team needs to thrive. She reminds me so much of Stella Mbachu.
Amarachi Ojinma also showed immense mobility as a forward, unselfishly providing support to Chinwendu Ihezuo. We need those darting runs from the flank and that fair skinned sharp shooter will offer that.
Uchenna Kanu – a raw diamond
I recall seeing Uche for the first time during the 2012 Nigeria Women Premier League season playing for Pelican Stars. In the match in particular, even though Pelican Stars lost to Nasarawa Amazons in Lafia, it was obvious that she was a player to be watched.
She was selected to the Falconets team that went all the way to the final of the previous World Cup in Canada, she showed a huge appetite for work.
True, she still needs to be polished as her selfish play is a major disadvantage in her game. She is certainly one for the future.
With the squad Peter Dedevbo has got now, I am confident that the Falconets will do very well in Papua New Guinea, even with no further inclusions.
Indeed the rules state that to be eligible to play in the 2016 FIFA U20 Women’s World Cup, all players should have been born on or after 1 January 1996. All the aforementioned players fall into this category, but in the end, Peter Dedevbo will take the final decisions
I would also like to praise the contributions of Sandra Chiichii who showed a lot of calmness and excellent positioning in goal for Nigeria during the qualifiers. The Sunshine Queens goalkeeper showed why she is Nigeria’s number one at youth level and with hard work; she could catapult herself as Super Falcons number one in future. But Swedish based Christy Ohiariaku will give her a run for her money. It will be interesting to see who gets the nod in Papua New Guinea.
The central defence remains our weakest link. The pairing of Esther Elijah and Ugochi Emenayo has always looked shaky right from the U17 days but I hope coach Dedevbo looks for ways of making them get better.
My trust and belief is with Peter Dedevbo as he aims to build a solid foundation for the future.