Retrospective Super Falcons Player Ratings And World Cup Potentials Against Zambia
Yeah it happened; Nigeria leaves the Wafcon empty handed and Super Falcons fans are still in a state of denial.
The toothless display against Zambia yesterday ensured, for the first time in their history, that the Super Falcons of Nigeria effectively played second fiddle to their counterparts on the continent.
Coach Randy Waldrum had his critics going into this tournament but even they could not have imagined the depth of disappointment and despair that this team would plunge into in Morocco .
The American was engaged by the NFF with two unambiguous mandates : maintain Nigeria's dominance on the continent and blow everyone away on the global stage.
At this stage, the only thing that was blown away was the bruised pride and ego of Nigeria fans who watched their team fall to teams they used to make light work of.
For an outfit that failed to fly in Africa, their fate at the World Cup in just under 12 months time is a source of much stress and anxiety; particularly for those (like me) who monitored the erudite quality of football on display at the other women's continental championships going on across the globe.
How will Waldrum’s Falcons fare against England, Spain or even Canada in competitive fixtures (not friendlies)?
Some are starting to ask for the coach's head but that is a matter for another day.
In yesterday's third place playoff against Zambia, a 29 minute comical own goal by the usually assured goalkeeper Nnadozie from a long shot that ricocheted onto her head into the post was all she wrote.
The 1:0 defeat of the Super Falcons would have delighted all of Nigeria's shameless detractors throughout the continent. How the giants have fallen, without so much of a consolidation medal.
I now turn to the player ratings and world cup potentials of the players and coaches.
1, Chiamaka Nnadozie (4.5/10) was initially well beaten before the ball bounced off the bar unto her nose and into the net for the only goal of the encounter.
She did make a number of routine saves and catches from a variety of deliveries but the manner of Zambia's goal left a bit of omelette on her face. Her deliveries were average and her positioning was decent enough throughout.
World Cup Credentials: like the rest of her colleagues, Nnadozie was slightly off pace yesterday. On her day, she remains one of the best goalkeepers on the planet. So, her world cup credentials remain unharmed despite her indifference against Zambia.
2, Michelle Alozie (5.5/10) was culpable for Zambia's goals as her sliding tackle before the delivery on the byline was unsuccessful. In fact, the Zambians found joy with a number of pullouts from her right back position particularly in the first half.
To her credit, she executed some neat blockages and clearances and at one point forced a Zambian winger off track.
A nice clearance from a dangerous low cross caught the eye. Her corner kicks were deceptively dangerous as 2 of these almost ended up in the net unaided.
Her work rate was again never in question.
World Cup Credentials: to be honest, I remain unconvinced about Michelle's capabilities as a fullback. She was found out on the continent and her defensive frailties will be ruthlessly exposed and exploited at the world stage. But, as a wingback in a back 5, she is serviceable.
Definitely a world cup candidate but I will rethink where she plays if I were the coach.
3, Ashleigh Plumptre (6/10) unleashed a fearsome shot from a freekick that needed a forceful punch from the goalkeeper to be tipped over the bar.
She remained assured and composed in her defensive duties (like a delicious low headed clearance) and she drove the ball forward on several occasions with attacking intent.
With Ohale beaten, Plumptre too was beaten for pace before the Zambian striker blasted wide from just outside the 18 yard box.
One of her long balls from way deep almost led to a pre-assist but Ikechukwu blasted wide. Her passes were neat and on the nose for most parts.
World Cup Credentials: imagine me saying that Plumptre does not deserve to be at the World Cup! quite a number of her love-struck fans will hunt me down like a dog!
Seriously, Plumptre did her world cup credentials a world of good with her versatility, deliveries, calmness, elegance and all round play.
She is almost a carbon- copy of Leon Balogun pace-wise but she is more comfortable with the ball and her take-ons are neater and more elegant than Balogun's.
Definitely World Cup material.
4, Osinachi Ohale (5/10) lost her woman on one occasion which left Plumptre picking up the pieces. She remained calm in her tackle and she covered a lot of grounds to make timely interceptions.
She did put her body on the line, cleverly, to impede the progress of Zambian strikers on occasions.
Aside from not having visible leadership qualities, she still executes her defensive tasks and offensive passes to reasonable levels.
World Cup Credentials: in this match, Ohale did not provide any justification to warrant her exclusion from the team. Many fans would like her to voluntarily bow out due to her age but that seems unlikely.
So, on merit, I think she hasn't harmed her world cup credentials. Ability to sense danger and react robustly is still there. An eye for delicate long passes is visible.
Although I would like to thumb her down, but, objectively, Ohale remains a world cup material or at the very least a squad member.
5, Toni Payne (4.5/10) didn't really stamp her authority on this match. Yes she provided cover which is her primary subroutine but she flew surprisingly below radar for most parts last night.
When required, she read play well enough to maintain the team shape which provided little outlet for the Zambians to exploit.
When with the ball, she kept it simple but the downside of that was that she didn't provide much creative spark that one tends to expect these days from fullbacks. She seems to be more productive at right fullback.
Hence no big exciting moments were attributed to her contributions.
World Cup Credentials: again, Toni Payne is another player wasted in fullback. When there, unlike yesterday, she did provide some creative outlet (particularly at right back).
But I think Waldrum or whomever should find a way to accommodate Payne and Alozie in midfield or attack.
Toni's versatility makes her a sure-banker world cup material.
6, Christie Ucheibe (4.5/10) was available to prevent Zambia's goal but she was not composed enough to prevent the shot that bounced off the bar unto Nnadozie's nose for the goal.
In fact she could have put Nigeria ahead earlier on but she lacked composure and her shot was blown high and wide.
She didn't always possess conviction in her play.
Before her injury induced early exit, Ucheibe was in the thick of things in Nigeria's midfield but her end product and sense of positioning left a lot to be desired.
World Cup Credentials: unless alternative options emerge from the Flamingos and Falconets (like Esther Onyenezide, Mercy Idoko, Flourish Sebastine or Joy Jerry), I don't see Ucheibe losing her place in this team.
Aspects of her game remain rough around the edges but overall she puts in the required shift.
I would call her a world cup 'potential'.
7, The seeds of Zambia's goal were sown when Ngozi Okobi (6/10) was beaten in left midfield before Alozie suffered a similar fate at the byline.
She did execute a lovely last ditch tackle inside the 18 yard box after a deadly Zambian counterattack.
An excellent crossfield long pass to Ordega was picture perfect and overall, she was assured in her play but not as forceful or as intense as in previous outings.
World Cup Credentials: Okobi made a compelling case for herself to be shortlisted for the upcoming world cup.
Many fans will be up in arms if she were to be dropped but for me, I will keep my eyes peeled for other vibrant, youthful and nifty midfielders that can, might or will emerge for Nigeria between now and the end of the year.
Another coach will automatically draft the likes of Alozie and Payne into Nigeria's midfield and then shop around for natural born fullbacks rather than makeshifts.
8, Regina Otu (4.5/10) drove past a phalanx of Zambians to the byline and delivered a promising cross Monday that almost proved to be an assist. Her one-time passes were neat and helped Nigeria maintain the tempo and possession.
Otu, who scored her penalty against Morocco, tried hard to please but she may have tried too hard. She was ready to roll her sleeves and get in the thick of things but, like the rest of the team, her efforts led to naught.
World Cup Credentials: as a squad member, Otu should expect to be considered for the world cup.
With older midfielders Okobi and Ayinde pulling up trees in the tournament, Otu - with the few minutes she was afforded - didn't do enough to set herself apart.
If Nigeria's intention is to take the 'world by storm' in Australia and New Zealand next year, it's hard to see what contributions (if any) Otu will make to such a statement.
Again, I will be beaming my torchlight on the Falconets and Flamingos for flamboyant midfield options.
9, Gift Monday (6/10) needed proper wrapping paper to seal the plethora of tantalising opportunities that came her way in a match where she could have bagged a hattrick.
She powered a header straight onto the bar and couldn't profit from the rebound. After doing the difficult part of shrugging of her markers, she blasted another glorious opportunity just wide from close range.
Again she timed her run to stay onside, breezed past the defender only to deliver a wayward shot inside the 18 yard box.
Her driven passes were decent for most parts, one of such to Ordega caught the eye.
Overall, her sense of positioning, take ons, movements, anticipation and timings were bang on the money. But her end product in front of goal was horrible.
World Cup Credentials : Monday needs to finetune her finishings to elevate the value she brings to the team. She harmed her world cup credentials with her erratic end product in front of goal.
If she goes to the world cup like this, she will be more of a source of heartache as she was against Zambia.
But she remains a huge world cup potential.
10, Ifeoma Onumonu (5/10) provided outlets for her team across the forward line. She shrugged off her marker at one point to deliver telling crosses on at least 2 occasions.
Onumonu tried to latch on to a decent, presentable through ball from deep from Ordega but again, her lack of pace meant the goalkeeper beat her to the ball from way outside the 18 yard box to clear it for a throw-in.
Like I observed elsewhere, Onumonu's limited pace will seldom bring out the best in through-ball scenarios (and this was a perfect example; an Ajibade - or Ahmed Musa - would have covered enough grounds to cause a clash with the on-rushing goalkeeper will could have won Nigeria a freekick and earn the goalkeeper a yellow or red card).
World Cup Credentials: in the simplest of terms, Onumonu is the most assured and capable old-fashioned conventional centre forward available to the Super Falcons at this time. She plays with a level of maturity that is unmatched in the team.
If Oparanozie and Oshoala return (and are flying on all cylinders) then Onumonu's place will be on the bench but she definitely deserves world cup consideration.
11, Francisca Ordega (5/10) continues to work extremely hard for the team even though the poise and elegance of years gone by have eroded from her play. After a pass from Gift Monday,
Ordega released a lame shot that sailed harmlessly wide. Her high-pressing game was commendable but she struggled to shake off her markers severally.
An eloquent through pass from deep to Onumonu caught the eye and another driven pass to Gift Monday ticked the right box. But she ran out of real estate after rounding the goalkeeper following a pristine long ball from Okobi.
World Cup Credentials: as a squad member, I think Ordega deserves a place on the plane to Australia and New Zealand. Her impact on games have waned but she still manages to ruffle the feathers of opposing defenders with her bullish approach.
13 Coach Randy Waldrum (5/10) presided over Nigeria's worst Wafcon outcome in the tournament's history which delighted our detractors up and down the continent and expanded his growing army of critics among Super Falcons fans.
Already, some fans are calling for the NFF to part ways with him more so as Nigeria has already qualified for the World Cup.
For this match against Zambia, I thought the Super Falcons played quite well, actually. Waldrum’s 4-3-3 formation created undeniable problems for Zambia and openings for Nigeria only for Gift Monday to fluff her lines on at least 3 great occasions.
Onumonu's unpredictable movements created openings and delivered dangerous crosses; Ordega had a glorious opportunity to score; Okobi, Kanu, Plumptre and Otu delivered defence splitting passes that actually cracked Zambia's defensive wall; Plumptre came close with a freekick; Monday had a hattrick of misses; Ikechukwu came close to scoring ; and an Ordega through pass to Onumonu was scrambled to clearance.
I'm sure I missed some more big moments but Nigeria shaded Zambia in possession, shots-on-target and passing accuracy stats.
In short, Waldrum’s Falcons did everything else right but failed, ultimately, to put the ball in the back of the net.
World Cup Credentials: I don't know, I really don't know. Waldrum was brave to stick to 4-3-3 formation throughout the tournament which provided stability, produced moments of magic against Morocco, Cameroon, Burundi and Botswana and also created plentiful missed opportunities against Zambia.
If he had retained the more defensive minded and pragmatic 5-3-2 formation he used against the USA last year and Canada this year, who knows? His Super Falcons may have been more difficult to overcome.
Perhaps he underestimated the strength of African teams as he lost 3 (South Africa, Morocco and Zambia) out of 4 of the games against formidable teams that his Super Falcons played against in this tournament.
Waldrum failed woefully to unearth natural fullback solutions for Nigeria. It is worrying that his team lacked cutting edge in the game against Zambia although pre-match non-bonus payment distractions might have played a part.
Although Okobi and Ayinde covered themselves in glory, Waldrum failed to provide Nigeria fans with youthful vibrant midfielders. He also has the tendency to play several players in awkward positions.
It is difficult to be fully invested in the Super Falcons under Waldrum, expectations will always be low.
But, I will not comment as to whether he is the right man for the world cup job; I will leave that to his NFF employers. I had faith in him but I was let down massively by how things panned out in this Wafcon tournament.
1, Rita Chikwelu (3/10) was introduced in 34 minutes but she was largely anonymous as expected. Other than regulation passes here and there and the needed body in midfield, Rita didn't elevate the nature of her outputs beyond routine activities.
2, Uchenna Kanu (5/10) made her presence felt with decent movements and promising deliveries. She ran out of real estate at one point and delivered a delicate low cross to Ordega which was noteworthy.
3, Vivian Ikechukwu (4.5/10) tried to get in the thick of things and her physicality caused the Zambians some problems on occasions. She got in promising positions but her communication with team members and decision making could have been better. She blasted a promising opportunity high and wide from just outside the 18 yard box.
4, Peace Efih (5/10) huffed and puffed for Nigeria in the middle but the Zambians made things difficult by flooding their defence with bodies.
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