Nigeria Vs Ivory Coast 2022 AWCON Qualifiers: Will Lightening Strike Twice
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By Amaechi Agbo
On October 7, 2019, the Ivory Coast female national football team, the Lady Elephants stopped the Super Falcons of Nigeria from qualifying for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics after a 1-1 draw in Agege, Lagos State.
Four days prior, both teams had played a barren draw in Abidjan but the Ivoriens progressed to the next round on away goal rule
Although both teams failed to qualify for the Olympic events in Japan after the Ivory Coast ladies were eliminated during the later stage of the qualifiers, the two teams will once again rekindle their hostilities this week as they both seek a ticket for the 2022 Africa Women’s Cup of Nations, AWCON holding in Morocco later in the year.
However, there is an uneasy calm in the camp of the Super Falcons ahead of the two-leg qualifiers with first leg in Abuja on Friday.
Although the Falcons have not played in the Olympic Games since 2012, they have not missed a single tournament of the AWCON.
It is on this basis and the need to maintain this existing tradition that the players and officials of the team are under pressure to deliver.
Both teams square up at the Moshood Abiola National Stadium, Abuja this Friday 18th February with the return leg at the Stade Robert Champroux in Abidjan on Wednesday next week.
Although there have been changes in technical crew setup of the team as well as addition of new players into the rank, the Baby Elephants remain a hard nut for the girls to crack.
Recall that Coach Randy Waldrum-led Super Falcons struggled to beat Black Queens of Ghana 2-1 in November to reach the last phase of the qualifiers, the Lady Elephants walloped their counterparts from Niger Republic 20-0, aggregate scoreline to reach same level.
Notwithstanding that the Nigerien ladies are not of equal female football pedigree compared to Ghana, the fact that the Ivoriens could score them 20 goals in 180 minutes of action, portends danger for the Falcons.
It is no wonder then, that the report by Guardian “that players and officials of the Super Falcons are having sleepless night ahead of the clash scheduled for Friday, February 18,” could not be far from the truth.
The Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) is doing everything possible to avoid a repeat of what happened at Agege Stadium, Lagos two years ago by reinforcing the team with addition of more technical officials and players. But how.muxh the new players have blended with the old legs is a test of time.
CAF last week had announced Uganda as the second team to qualifier for the tournament after Kenya withdrew from the race thereby leaving ten more slots to be occupied and one of these would be Nigeria’s Super Falcons, nine-time champions of the tournament, or would it be the Lady Elephants?
There is no doubt that Falcons would be vengeful in the two matches but they need to prude with greater caution to avoid the lightening striking twice.