Falcons in Make or Break Tie against Korea

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FIFA WOMEN’S WORLD CUP

Femi Solaja

The Super Falcons will have their fate in their hands when they face Korea Republic in Grenoble in their second match at the FIFA Women’s World Cup.

The Group A fixture at the Stade des Alpes is the first time both teams will be meeting at this level.

Expectedly the Nigerians will throw all their fire woods into the furnace, realising that a win of any margin will keep them in the tournament, while a defeat will make the last group match against host, France a mere formality.

For the record, the Falcons have faced Asian oppositions five times in previous tournaments, notably the Korea Democratic Republic, the northern neighbours of Korea Republic.

The statistics, however, indicate that the Falcons have a poor head-to-head record in matches with Asian oppositions, with four defeats and a 2-1 win against North Korea, 20 years ago in the US.

That win was the first of the only three victories Nigeria has notched at the women’s tournament since inception in 1991.

But precisely at 3p.m. Nigerian time today, they will approach the bottom-of-the-table clash with a winning mentality and on a cautious note.

Yes, caution will be watchword of Coach Thomas Dennerby’ s charges given that the duo of Desire Oparanoze and Francisca Ordega, are among the four players already on the disciplinary list. Any further caution will make them unavailable for the last group match against France on Sunday night in Rennes. Other listed players are Germany’s Lena Oberdorf and Spain’s Marta Corredera.

Ahead of this match, THISDAY learnt from the team’s camp that Dennerby and the team medics have ruled veteran defender Faith Michael out of the tournament.

The Pitea IF of Sweden defender was injured in a clash with goalkeeper Tochukwu Oluehi during Saturday’s 3-0 loss to Norway and will take no further part in the championship, no matter how far the African champions get.

The team again trained at the Stade Eugène Thenard on the Avenue du General de Charles Gaulle yesterday and apart from Michael, the remaining 22 players are rearing to go against the Far East Asians.

In Michael’s absence, petite Chidinma Okeke, a former junior international who featured for Nigeria at the FIFA U20 Women’s World Cup also staged in France last year, will start at right back.

She was impressive against the Norwegians when she replaced Michael in the 53rd minute on Saturday.

The central defensive pairing of veteran Onome Ebi and Osinachi Ohale will be maintained, as left back Ngozi Ebere. In the midfield, Dennerby will decide whether to once more go with the trio of Ngozi Okobi, Rita Chikwelu and Halimatu Ayinde, or rest the latter for Portugal –based Chinaza Uchendu.

Oparanozie, Asisat Oshoala and Francisca Ordega will be saddled with the assignment of getting the goals that will keep Falcons’ hopes of remaining in France beyond 17th June.