You don’t go into a duel with behemoths like the all-conquering USA women’s soccer team with just a few hours of training without getting roasted – Nigeria’s Super Falcons did, and they were squashed like mashed potatoes.
With shoestring preparations, Nigeria’s women fell to 4:0 bazookas from American cannons on the Saturday 3rd of September friendly which only served to forge a fresh ring into a recent chain of destitute results of four losses in six games (a telling affirmation of how colourless the Super Falcons have become).
This friendly, the first of a two-part series, started in predictable fashion with the Super Falcon on the proverbial back foot, looking disjointed and incoherent at the back, rudimentary in midfield whilst lacking either bark or bite up front. With Nigeria’s defence haemorrhaging pressure, it eventually came to breaking point quite early with Sophia Smith and Lindsey Horan hammering home two well taken goals for the hosts in just 25 minutes.
Rather than rouse Nigeria from their slumber, the Americans rather pressed home their technical and tactical advantage with two further goals from the unstoppable Sophia Smith and then Alex Morgan from the penalty spot (admittedly the body check from Nicole Payne for the penalty could have been construed as negligible by other referees).
Thus the Super Falcons were ruthless impaled on a ‘four goals to nothing’ spear. Late flurries from Toni Payne, Michelle Alozie and Gift Monday only served to prove that the Falcons roused from their slumber after the ship had sailed.
This now leads me to my five brief observations on the encounter.
1.Trialling A New Formation: having largely dabbled into 4-3-3 and 3-5-2 constellations in prior engagements, the much maligned coach Randy Waldrum elected to switch horses to 4-2-3-1 on this occasion. This represented a departure from his prior philosophy of playing it safe against world class oppositions. My major issue with this was that he used an unfamiliar formation when his girls hadn’t had much time to practice and perfect the movements needed to make it work. Hence the Super Falcons were inarticulate, agricultural and incongruous in their play particularly early in the match. The defence lacked much leadership as it collapsed whilst trying to work out how to contain the rampaging Americans in this set up. The defensive midfield didn’t gel earlier on and the forward line of Monday, Ajibade, Kanu and Onumanu played like strangers. They needed time to work out what worked for them individually and collectively to make the formation work but the USA weren’t going to be generous hence Nigeria was punished for carelessly experimenting against Gladiators.
2.Poor Player Selections: Another bête noire of mine was (again) the choice players in certain positions for his new formation. The wings – I think – could have benefited with Alozie and T. Payne on either side due to their attacking and defensive capabilities. In fact, Nigeria only started creating openings once these two players moved upwards. In this 4-2-3-1 formation, the wingers needed to be fluid and the centre attacking midfielder has to be a work-horse. The centre attacker has to be comfortable with hold up play and being isolated but I don’t think Waldrum selected or arranged his starting 11 to unlock the potentials inherent in this formation. Things improved with substitutions.
3.Limited Time To Prepare: In what has shamelessly become a staple of this abhorrent NFF administration, the Super Falcons arrived in the USA without sufficient time to really prime themselves for this high profile encounter. With no less than six fresh faces in the squad, the team needed more time to blood them in and blend them in time for this friendly match that was planned many days ago. I stand to be corrected but I think last week was the first time Randy Waldrum would be reuniting with many of his players after Nigeria’s last match in the Wafcon on the 22nd of July (a whole seven weeks ago). That is not good enough; no wonder the United States wiped the floor with the not-so-Super Falcons.
4.Continuation of Defensive Frailties: Against South Africa, Morocco and Zambia, we saw how Nigeria’s defence were at sixes and sevens. Again against USA over the weekend, they were all over the place. Lack of leadership; poorly executed routines; mundane attempts at clearances; easily succumbing in one on one situations; ineffective communication and inadequate support or cover from the attackers continue to be some of bane of Waldrum’s Falcons. The American will need to sort these issues out and fast if his team isn’t to return to Nigeria with a basket load of goals-conceived from next year’s World Cup.
5.Lack of Progress: Needless to say that the Super Falcons haven’t made any meaningful or appreciable progress in recent times. This is in part due to the NFF’s football management incompetence and also partly due to coach Randy Waldrum’s shortcomings. The American gaffer continues to play players out of position thereby debilitating their effectiveness and sabotage the effectiveness of his own formation. He sometimes seems confused on which formation to utilise for which occasion and his ladies do not always exhibit the sort of movements that will give them advantage over their oppositions. Nigerian women now sadly and embarrassingly plays second fiddle to the likes of South Africa on the continent while showing no signs of ever been able to upset the applecart of world female football. It is impossible to be fully invested in the Super Falcons due to the lamentable quality of football and depressing outcomes of recent matches. But the Nigerian blood in our veins and our undying coquettish affection towards the Super Falcons make us persevere.
I am starting to become ambivalent towards the retention of Waldrum as the head coach of the Super Falcons but for a large platoon of fans, their mind is made up – THE AMERICAN TACTICIAN MUST GO!
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