Super Flacons vs. Ethiopia (1:1) – Retrospective Review
‘It didn’t end as we expected but the hard work continues’ was the message on the official Super Falcons X handle after yesterday’s rather dour 1:1 draw away to Ethiopia.
In what I now wish to refer to as Wobbly Wednesday, our ladies limped to this disappointing score line in a performance that missed the grace, elegance and panache expected of a team that just made a strong statement in the world cup a few months ago.
This is not to take a dig at the players or everyone involved in priming them for the match.
Individually, I think the players all gave 100 percent, consistent with the level and length of preparation afforded them. But as a “product”, the performance output wasn’t palatable leaving vast areas of improvement which the players can plug in subsequent matches owing to the quality in their ranks.
Birkie Amare had taken advantage of slack defending off a corner kick in just 6 minutes to stab home for the hosts only for Rasheedat Ajibade to produce a moment of magic to blast Nigeria back into the tie from outside the 18 yard box in 52 minutes.
Nigeria Fans have largely slammed the performance as laboured, crude and uninspiring whilst some critics have been less scathing. Premium Times called it “hard fought and improved second half display”; Nigeria Bulletin called the encounter “hard fought and thrilling”; Score Nigeria called it “Disappointing”, with All Nigeria Soccer singling out Ajibade for plaudits due to her leveller.
I share my thoughts below on the encounter:
1. The Super Falcons struggled in the first half to sustain their attacking forays in the first half. They were well contained by Ethiopia.
2. The crosses from the fullbacks lacked the requisite quality in the first half to truly harm the hosts.
3. In fact, several passes were overcooked and not well executed in the first half.
4. The Super Falcons played like a collection of strangers in parts of the first half. There was minimal cohesion in their play and it was impossible to see how they could harm the hosts.
5. Nigeria overall seemed pedestrian in their play. They failed to truly click into gear. Their goal scoring initiatives were delivered sporadically and without intent or credibility.
The few goal scoring opportunities they fashioned out were not clear cut and well dealt with. They seemed clueless as to how to divide-and-conquer the opposition who were very resolute and staunch in repelling Nigeria. It is also worth noting that our threats from set pieces were negligible.
6. We seemed to finally be clicking into gear after the break as there were moments when Ethiopia were on the ropes and made to camp in their own half following sustained Super Falcons pressure.
7. But Nigeria still played more like a collection of individuals at times than a well drilled team. This made easier for Ethiopia to crowd our players out of the ball and force them out of possession.
8. A number of the substitutes made their presence felt particularly Onumonu and Rinsola who peppered Ethiopia on both flanks.
9. The Super Falcons finally became expansive and compelling in their application as the game drew to a close. They fashioned out neat scoring opportunities leading to a goal that was ruled out under controversial circumstances.
10. I have to close by say Rasheedat Ajibade is framing herself to be a big-game player with the sort of performance and impact one would have expected of an Asisat Oshoala.
Overall, I was largely unimpressed with the performance. I had expected the corner leading to Ethiopia’s goal to have been better defended and I expected our players to have fashioned out far more credible, clean-cut scoring opportunities. The deliveries across the park could have been better and their movements far less predictable.
I personally don’t see how Ethiopia will score a single goal in Abuja as they were naive in attack even in front of their own fans. Nigeria should go through to the next round and the Super Falcons manager should devise how to blend the team to play with more cohesion and intent in future qualifiers even with minimal time to train.