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Can Bayana Bayana Shock Super Falcons in South Africa in Olympic Qualifier?


The South Africans remain defiant despite going down to a slim but well deserved 1:0 loss to Nigeria in Abuja to be a hairs breath of missing out on Olympic football in the summer.


"The end result will be on Tuesday,” South African Sharpshooter Kgatlana told reporters after the game.


“We will be at home, familiar with the conditions, that will be advantage.”


Funny that because I too felt that Bayana Bayana didn't feel quite at home in Abuja despite arriving early to acclimatise.


Much of their flair, flamboyance and flowery football that has caught the Super Falcons off guard in recent outings was conspicuously curtailed by Nigeria's Abiodun-led midfield.


I had expected Nigeria, though playing 'at home' would be pegged back earlier in the encounter but it was Waldrum’s women asking all the telling questions.


Indeed, these ladies do want to go to the Olympics and it would have taken a herculean effort for South Africa to bring Nigeria to heel in Abuja.


It is always good to be able to intuit what your team is trying to do and how they go about their business. This bonds you with their ambitions and keep you glued to your seat. And the Super Falcons definitely delivered in getting me invested and engaged in their brand of football on the day.


The Super Falcons attacked with long balls to the flanks and some to the centre forward. They would stifle South Africa in midfield with the tackling competencies of Ayinde and Abiodun with Echegini proving the creative sparks.


Chiwendu Iheuzo, who would win the crucial penalty expertly converted by Ajibade, was too hot to handle. Shame she couldn't bury some telling chances but her place in this team is undeniable.


Echegini was dazzling in her dribbles as she tore into the opposition with eloquence and gravitas. Returnee fan-favourite Chidinma Okeke produced a display to ensure that regulars Plumptre and Demehin weren't missed as much with Nnadozie producing some match winning saves.


As alluded to earlier, I had expected far more formidable and professional challenge from South Africa but they just struggled to dominate the agenda as I had expected them to.


The problem for South Africa is that the Super Falcons are more at home playing in better stadiums with livelier (albeit hostile) atmosphere than what Abuja stadium offers.


Also, with the Super Falcons having more days to train, rest and acclimatise, I think South Africa have a lot to worry

about.


Waldrum continues to show that no player has an automatic shirt regardless of status. Toni Payne has been underwhelming of late with on the flanks or in midfield where Iheuzo and Echegini have stepped in to stamp their authority.


Oshoala was left out and she wasn't missed. Ifeoma Onumonu is now playing second fiddle to Okoronkwo and maybe even Iheuzo with Okeke proving she in not a stop-gap, she is here to stay.


My only worry is just the goalkeeping department where no other option matches the stature of Nnadozie. The sub goalkeepers are either too immature or coming close to retirement.



The South Africans are right to be hopeful of thier chances in the second leg.


However, should the Super Falcons approach the match with steely concentration, their Olympic ticket will surely be in the bag.


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