Paris Olympics 2024: Clash of Titans as Super Falcons renew rivalry with Lionesses in Douala

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Africa’s most successful national women’s football team, Nigeria’s Super Falcons will continue its search for a ticket to another appearance at the Olympic Games Women’s Football Tournament after 16 years of absence from the global event on Friday, February 23, 2024.

It was gathered that the Nigerian women team will confront Cameroon’s Indomitable Lionesses in the first leg of the African qualifiers double-header at Stade de la Reunification in Douala.

The nine-time African champions who have had three failed attempts at getting a ticket to the Olympics arrived Cameroon’s industrial and economic capital, Douala on Wednesday night and have settled down for the clash of the titans on Friday.

The Super Falcons last participated at the Olympic Games Women’s Football Tournament in China in 2008, when they lost by the odd goal to both Democratic Republic of Korea and Germany in Shenyang, and later lost 1-3 to Brazil in Beijing to crash out at group stage. Nigeria had participated first in Sydney 2000 and also attended the 2004 edition in Greece.

But the route to Olympic Games London 2012 was blocked by Cameroon’s Indomitable Lionesses, who eliminated Nigeria via penalty shoot-out which was played under a poorly lit floodlights at Stade Omnisport in Yaounde in 2011 after both teams finished the two legs in Abuja and Yaounde in a stalemate.

Again, Equatorial Guinea made the journey to Olympic Games Rio 2016 impossible for Nigeria as the African champions were eliminated in the last round of the qualifiers before La Elephantes of Cote d’Ivoire bumped the Super Falcons in the race to a place in Tokyo 2020 which saw South Africa and Zambia represent Africa.

However, Nigeria’s road to Paris 2024 has been smooth till now as the country got exemption from the first round of matches and after eliminating Ethiopia in the second round of the series, the Super Falcons must now cross the Cameroonian hurdle to reach the final round of the African qualifiers.

Even without the substantive head coach of Super Falcons Randy Waldrum who stayed away from the double-header against Ethiopia to concentrate on his Pittsburgh University women’s soccer club Pittsburgh Panther’s domestic competition in the United States (US) on October 25, 2023 with his contract still running, the Super Falcons led by the trio of Nigerian coaches Justin Madugu, Ann Agumanu-Chiejine and Auwal Makwalla grinded out a 1-1 draw in Addis Ababa and later finished off Ethiopia 4-1 in Abuja to qualify for the next round on 5-1 aggregate.

Madugu, Chiejine and Makwalla also in the absence of Waldrum led Nigeria to qualify for this year’s Women’s Africa Cup of Nations (WAFCON) billed for Morocco later in the year as free-scoring Super Falcons thrashed Cabo Verde 5-0 at Moshood Abiola National Stadium Abuja and defeated Cabo Verde away 1-2 in Praia in the return leg of the final round on December 5, 2023.

With this recent good run of form, Nigerian fans had expected that Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) should have left the Nigeria-born coaches to continue with the momentum Super Falcons have built with the admixture of home grown players who replaced the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup players like Oshoala, Plumptre, Alozie, Abiodun, Jennifer Echegini and Christy Ucheibe who failed to honour the invitation for the Olympics African qualifiers double-header against Ethiopia and WAFCON qualifiers against Cape Verde but the federation instead reappointed Waldrum after the Nigerians had qualified the team to the next level of competitions.

Now, the American gaffer has recalled the usual suspects and Nigerians will wait to see if he will lead the team to the same three-match-winning streak which Madugu tutored Super Falcons went through with ease just as the team will be expected to throw down the gauntlet to their eternal rivals Lionesses when both clash in Douala on Friday and in the return leg in Abuja on Monday as well as against any opposition that appears at the last stage of the qualification series in two months’ time.

However, it will not be a stroll in the park for Super Falcons as Indomitable Lionesses can prove stubborn at home despite the absence of some key players in the squad as they will attack the Nigerian team loaded with superstars like the reigning African Best Player (Women’s) Asisat Lamina Oshoala and African Best Goalkeeper (Women’s) Chiamaka Cynthia Nnadozie.

Yet, Coach Waldrum has more than enough players to be able to start 11 out of the 21 players he single-handedly picked for the double-header against Cameroon and all the invitees made the trip to Douala, and will then fly down to Abuja on Sunday morning for the return leg against the Lionesses, which will hold at the Moshood Abiola National Stadium on Monday evening.

Acting skipper Rasheedat Ajibade (Atletico Madrid FC, Spain); reliable goalkeeper Nnadozie (Paris FC, France); ace defender Osinachi Ohale

(Pachuca FC, Mexico), and returning duo of Ashleigh Plumptre of (Al-Ittihad Saudi Arabia) and Mitchelle Alozie (Houston Dash, USA) are also ready for the “Battle of Douala”.

Luckily, in the last 10 matches between both countries, Nigeria won 6, Cameroon 3 and 1 draw. A total of 21 goals were scored with Nigeria scoring 14 goals and Cameroon with 7 goals.

Although the Indomitable Lionesses head coach Jean Baptiste Bisseck invited a handful of players plying their trade in Cameroon, the team is populated by overseas-based professionals who will trouble Super Falcons including strikers Gabrielle Ounguene Aboudi of CSKA Moscow; Marie Divine Ngah of Harikkacucu Spor, Turkey and Mana Lamine of Le Mans, France.

Others are goalkeeper Michaely Bihina of Racing Power FC of Portugal; defenders Colette Ndzana of Stade Reims, France; Eliane Manbolamo of Athletico Ouriense, Portugal and Mariane Maague of Amazone Fap de Yaounde, Cameroon and midfielders Charlene Meyong (Stade Reims, France), Mireille Tchegang (FC Roubaix, France) and Nina Nke Nke (Adana Idmanyudu, Turkey).

With no fewer than a dozen home-based players included in the list of 23 and four on standby, Cameroon’s coach has more than enough weapons in his armoury to shoot down the Falcons on Friday