The 8th edition of the FIFA Women’s World Cup commenced on June 7 with host country France beating Korea Republic 4-0 in the opening match at the iconic Parc des Princes stadium in Paris. Nigeria, which is in Group B started the tournament on a shaky note, losing 3 goals to nil against Norway last Saturday. But the month-long football showpiece promises more exciting moments as the Nigeria senior women’s team recovered from the opening day loss, to beat Korea Republic 2-0 in the second group match on Wednesday.
The 24 teams participating in the global Mundial are in six groups of four teams each. Group A has host country France, Korea Republic, Nigeria and Norway. Group B has Germany, China Peoples Republic, Spain and South Africa. Group C has Australia, Italy, Brazil and Jamaica who are featuring for the first time in the tournament. Group D has England, Scotland, Argentina and Japan. Group E has Canada, Cameroon, New Zealand and Netherlands. Group F has USA, Thailand, Chile and Sweden. Nigeria, South Africa and Cameroon fly the African flag at the global football tourney.
Expectations back home are cautiously optimistic and understandably high. The Super Falcons probably had the best preparations ever for a tournament of this nature. It started two years ago with the hiring of a world-class coach, Thomas Dennerby, who had taken his home country, Sweden, to a third place finish at the 1995 edition of the Women’s World Cup
Dennerby, working with the national football association, designed a credible programme to adequately prepare the team for a good outing at the current World Cup. Apart from the superior technical input from the coach, the Super Falcons participated in a number of international tournaments and played a number of international friendly matches to ensure their proper development and tune up for the tournament. Part of the preparations also included well-timed camping activities for the team to secure their proper bonding ahead of the competition. There is evidence that the effort has worked so far as they rounded off their preparations for France with a commanding 3-1 defeat of a top Slovakian side reputed to have in their ranks at least seven of the national team players.
During the preparations for this World Cup, the Super Falcons made up of mostly home-based players and new invitees to the team played the WAFU Group B CAF tournament in Cote d’Ivoire which the Super Falcons won by beating the host country in a penalty shoot-out in the finals.
Ranked 38 in the world, Nigeria’s Super Falcons would round off their group matches against host nation, France on June 17 at the Roazhon Park in Rennes. Although the Super Falcons are in a difficult group, but that has not doused the expectations of a good outing at home. This hope was further buoyed by the resounding victory against Korea Republic in second group match. The overall expectation is that this team would do better than the Quarter Final finish at the 1991 World Cup in the USA or even win the World Cup.
This goal is not impossible, given the determination of the girls and the preparations before the tournament. We believe that the NFF has done its best to adequately motivate the team as matters of camping and match bonuses for the tournament were agreed and settled. FIFA has upped the ante as the winning bonuses for this world cup have been doubled compared to the last tournament. The winner of this World Cup would pocket the sum of $4 million. The runner-up would go home with $2.6million. Semi-finalists would pocket $1.6 million each and Quarter final finishers would earn $1.1 million each. Those who reach the Round of 16 would earn $1 million and teams who finish at the group stage would go home with at least $750,000 each. The Super Falcons should do well and even surpass expectations at the tournament. We wish the team a glorious outing.