"It will not be easy against France but we have what is known as the special ‘Nigeria spirit’ and we will go in there with confidence. " Coach Chris Danjuma
The matches played thus far in this under 20 women's world cup tournament have been to a very high technical and entertainment standards. I have no doubt the match between the Falconets and Bluettes this week will follow suit.
It is interesting that coach Danjuma is banking on that ‘Nigerian Spirit’ as part of the ingredients to help overcome the powerful French ladies.
The Nigerian Spirit – to me – can be defined as the ability of a Nigerian national team to overcome a strong opponent despite inadequate planning and with shoddy preparation by the NFF.
Without exposure to oppositions from other continents, the Falconets will have to play it by ear and learn on the fly against France.
It is definitely not impossible but France knew what they were doing by playing Ghana (a fellow West African country) in a friendly game just before thier encounter against Nigeria : it gave them a flavour of what to expect.
That said, France should expect to find the Falconets as a different proposition.
I am eagerly excited to see players what players like Mercy Idoko, Flourish Sabastine, Esther Onyenezide, Joy Jerry, Oluwatosin Demehin and Rafiat Imuran bring to the World Cup party (after rampant campaigns on the continent).
Perhaps Nigeria will have to defend more in this first match, meaning one will have to wait for subsequent matches to see the Flamingos cruise at the right altitude.
“We will play to our strengths against France – firm at the back and clinical in front,” said coach Danjuma.
What he perhaps left out is how they will approach ‘the middle’.
The midfield is where games can be lost or won. With the French expected to be supremely technical, creative and intelligent with the ball, it will be interesting to see how Danjuma combats them in that zone of combat.
Will he just bypass gritty feet-to-feet midfield battles and elect for long ball aerial assaults or will he attempt to go toe-to-toe with the French there? Will he ask his girls to sit back, soak pressure and hit the French on the break or will he go for an open game (which will spell suicide if Nigeria fails to match France’s flair, technicality and vibrancy).
One thing is for sure: it is going to be a clash of styles – Nigerian Spirit against French finesse.
And I can’t wait!