Salient Observations As Waldrum’s Super Falcons Turn A Corner With Emphatic Win Against New Zealand
Like a dog with two tails, Super Falcons fans have been lavishing the team with much praise and encomiums on social media following their 3:0 five star performance against world cup bound New Zealand in this week's friendly in Turkey.
After vomiting seven heartbreaking losses in a row, Waldrum’s Falcons now made it three wins out of their last three games - a telling affirmation of the massive turnaround the team is now experiencing ahead of the world cup in July.
Despite a nervy start, evergreen Ebi rose highest to rifle her header into the net for the opening goal in 34 minutes. It got better in 49 minutes after eloquent Echegini attacked Alozie's cross to smash home her volley. Returnee center forward Oparanozie then added spice to the jollof rice with an emphatic hold up play before turning 360 to lash home Nigeria's 3rd and final goal as the game approached its denouement in 94 minutes.
Coach Randy Waldrum has come under massive pillory recently from the likes of myself and other fans but today he deserves plaudits. His team selection and tactical approach were top notch and the results he orchestrated in the last three games are definitely praise worthy.
Back to today's game, I turn my attention to salient observations I made in the course of the match.
1) Predictability: Yes the Super Falcons obliterated New Zealand but they were way too predictable particularly in the first half. It was clear that - like all Nigeria national teams across age and gender - the Super Falcons would rely on crosses to try to unlock New Zealand's defence. There is nothing wrong with this but if they over-rely on this approach at the World Cup, opponents will find it easy to neutralise them.
2) Set Piece Prowess: Yes the team scored two goals from set pieces in their last two games (one from a corner kick today and the other from a freekick against Haiti). But they can do better. With a bit more composure, Esther Okoronkwo could have made New Zealand suffer for their foul on Oshoala close to their 18 yard box in the first half.
3) Game-play Composure: The Super Falcons seemed to be in haste to release the ball particularly in the first half. This led to many of their attacking ventures to break down prematurely. With a bit more composure on the ball, the Super Falcons will be able to dictate play with authority and finesse in future games.
4) Take-on Indulgence: Sometimes, Super Falcons players appear to give themselves too much to do by over indulging in dribbles and take-ons. It led to them being needlessly dispossessed at times with other players in promising positions.
5) Delivery From the Wings: Michelle Alozie was simply fabulous today with her pull outs. This led to a goal and created problems for New Zealand all afternoon. The beauty about her crosses is the variety she employs. She went for traditional crosses and also inswingers which made her approach less predictable.
6) Heavy Touches: In the first half, the Super Falcons overcooked some passes with some of their first touches falling short of requisite quality. This limited their goal threats. Things improved drastically and encouragingly in the second half as Nigeria seized the initiative.
7) Concentration Levels: The team showed a high level of coordination and concentration which brought them the reward of a clean sheet. The defence kept things tight and compact with the whole team moving with a lot of discipline that helped them maintain their shape and stay the course.
If they maintain this level of concentration and improve with each passing game, then - like Ashleigh Plumptre stated in a recent interview - the team will be more than capable of causing the odd upset or two come the World Cup in the summer.
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