Organizers, stakeholders, ardent football enthusiasts and the media are guaranteed a feast when Cup holders Nigeria and much-improved host nation Morocco go to battle in the second semi final match of the 12th Women Africa Cup of Nations competition in Rabat on Monday night.
The stage is set for what should be an interesting, engaging and thrilling encounter at the Complexe Prince Moulay Abdellah in Morocco’s administrative capital, as from 9pm, with a capacity crowd expected to goad on the Atlas Lionesses.
An intimidating cauldron and a highly-motivated opposition are among the challenges nine-time champions Nigeria would be up against on Monday, but President of the Nigeria Football Federation and FIFA Council Member, Amaju Melvin Pinnick has told the girls to think of Nigeria and their scores of millions of fans back home when they enter the pitch against the host nation.
“The match against Morocco will be perhaps the toughest hurdle for the Super Falcons here. However, I have told them to think of our country and the teeming support back home, and the Government that has shown them much love and encouragement.
“They must be dogged and exhibit as always, that unique Nigeria spirit that makes us to overcome challenges, hurdles and obstacles. I am confident that we will be in the Final on Saturday.”
Monday night’s spectacle will see the Falcons aim for their 10th Final Match of the Women AFCON, since the competition was launched as a biennial event in Nigeria 24 years ago. They have never failed to win a Final match, and victory over Cameroon on Thursday affirmed that they had never failed to reach the tournament’s last four.
If you consider history, Morocco’s Lionesses come into the game as dwarfs beside the Super Falcons. In the opening match of the inaugural edition of the Women AFCON, hosted by Nigeria, the Super Falcons lashed the Lionesses 8-0.
The Falcons have also gone ahead to win nine titles in 11 finals before Morocco 2022, have taken part in all editions of the FIFA Women’s World Cup in addition to playing in three editions of the Olympic Women’s Football Tournament, and have become a global brand.
However, on the evidence of their performance at the Aisha Buhari Women’s Football Tournament that Nigeria hosted in September last year and their run at this championship, the Lionesses do not deserve to be treated with kid gloves.
Coach Reynald Pedros will bank on the deft touches and dribbling skills of Fatima Tagnaout on the left side of the pitch, as well as the courageous and lethal Sanaâ Mssoudy at the fore. The Super Falcons must be wary of these two players especially.
On his part, Coach Randy Waldrum could start with an energetic attacking line comprising of three-goal Rasheedat Ajibade, Uchenna Kanu and Francisca Ordega, with the nifty Gift Monday also a possibility. Christy Ucheibe, Ngozi Okobi-Okeoghene and Halimat Ayinde should retain their places in the middle, with Captain Onome Ebi leading a rearguard that will shield goalkeeper Chiamaka Nnadozie.
South Africa’s Banyana Banyana and Zambia’s Copper Queens will play the first semi final at the Complexe Mohamed V in Casablanca as from 6pm, also on Monday.