Nigeria perhaps have been to each FIFA Girls’s World Cup ever held, and South Africa could have been to none, however Banyana Banyana defeating the Tremendous Falcons on Sunday got here as little surprise to followers of both aspect.
Thembi Kgatlana of the Houston Sprint struck an excellent volley of their Africa Girls Cup of Nations opener to see the South Africans previous the crew that has won 10 out of 12 editions of the event. It was Banyana’s second-ever win over Nigeria since 1991.
However the result wouldn’t come as a shock to those that observe ladies’s soccer. The Nigerians, defending AWCON champions, have been dwelling in cruise management, assuming video games in Africa have been theirs for the taking. However only one pleasant match in practically two years was at all times going to come again to hang-out them.
Banyana acquired simply reward for his or her months of painstaking preparation for this event, enjoying greater than a dozen matches prior to now 18 months and profitable the COSAFA Cup in September, against this. Moreover, Kgatlana was certainly one of three US-based gamers for Banyana, whereas Franny Ordega was Nigeria’s sole consultant from essentially the most aggressive ladies’s league on the earth.
As soon as the undisputed dominant drive in African ladies’s soccer, Nigeria’s inventory has step by step fallen to the purpose have been former ‘minnows’ can afford to shake their fists at them with impunity, and get away with it.
The entire flashing crimson lights have been both ignored or dismissed as the crew continued to journey the wave of glory set by their predecessors, to the purpose the place ending exterior the highest three at this AWCON, and thus lacking subsequent yr’s World Cup, is an actual chance.
Former glories can solely lengthen to date, and even in these halcyon years, the indicators have been there. In 2002, Ghana inflicted a first-ever defeat on the Tremendous Falcons, a crew full with the facility of Mercy Akide, and the rising Perpetua Nkwocha.
Then, as now, it took one objective – by Alberta Sackey – to resolve the rating as the Black Queens bunkered down and weathered a barrage of livid attacking from Nigeria, together with a missed penalty by Akide.
Lower than two years later, it took a heroic effort for the Falcons to overcome the Black Queens, on penalty kicks, to attain the 2004 Olympic Video games.
And in 2008, the primary main shock got here. They have been crushed to the African title (the primary time they’d ever misplaced it) by Equatorial Guinea, ending third. They regained the title in 2010, solely to lose it once more to Equatorial Guinea in 2012, this time ending a below-par fourth.
However simply earlier than that, that they had failed to qualify for the All Africa Video games, the primary time the crew would fail to qualify for any event, particularly in Africa. Then, Cameroon rubbed salt within the wound after they nicked forward of the Nigerians to choose up a ticket to the 2012 Olympics.
And but, panic didn’t set in. The place all palms ought to have rushed to the pump to establish the issue and discover a long-lasting resolution, the NFF took the trail of least resistance, firing coach Eucharia Uche. It was her substitute, Kadiri Ikhana, who misplaced that 2012 African title.
Nonetheless all of the alarm bells have been ignored. Little or no try was made to enhance the home league, or to establish and groom new gamers, or failing all that, to be sure that the senior ladies’s nationwide crew gained useful expertise by competing against the perfect on the earth.
For years the Falcons dominated Africa, solely to fall brief on the world stage time and time once more, for the easy motive that the World Cup or Olympic Video games have been the one occasions they acquired to sq. off against high quality opposition.
That pattern has not modified. Subsequent to the World Cup and Olympics, the Algarve Cup ranks as essentially the most prestigious ladies’s event on the earth and options most of the greatest groups, however Africa’s document champions have by no means participated.
It is value mentioning although that current editions of the Algarve event haven’t featured the USA nor a variety of the highest five-ranked sides, who’ve opted to play within the SheBelieves Cup. An African aspect has not competed there both.
The Cyprus Cup ranks shut in status and high quality to the Algarve, and the Tremendous Falcons have by no means performed there. South Africa, against this, have engaged in excessive profile friendlies over and once more since 2016, and this yr participated in Cyprus event.
It appears like Nigeria anticipated different African international locations to keep trapped in some form of time capsule the place the Tremendous Falcons would stay perennial entrance runners. However sitting in limbo for 2017, with out a coach or enjoying a single sport, was sure to take its toll.
The NFF did properly by appointing a overseas coach, former Sweden boss Thomas Dennerby, and establishing a coaching camp for the ladies in Epe, regardless of being cash-strapped, but it surely was too late.
Even the perfect coach on the earth would battle to make something significant out of a three-week coaching camp a month earlier than a significant event, particularly if the core of his crew solely arrived after he had named his squad.
Shedding against South Africa means they’ve basically two Finals to play against Zambia and Equatorial Guinea. If they’re to every the semifinals and stand an opportunity of qualifying for the World Cup, they will in poor health afford something lower than most factors from each video games.
If the Nigerians want a forged research of how to be, and stay, dominant, they solely want look in the direction of the US to see how a crew on the high of its sport regularly refreshes and reinvents itself to keep there.