Nigeria’s women’s National team The ‘Super Falcons’ produced a 5-star performance against Cape Verde Girls in the Africa Women’s Cup of Nations Qualifier first-leg match in Abuja.
The result – a 5-nil drubbing of their visitors puts the Falcons on the cusp of qualification for Morocco 2024 despite having a return leg next week.
Here are the 5-Falcon players who stood out in the game;
1. Deborah Abiodun: Playing her first game for the Falcons since the Women’s World Cup in Australia Abiodun set the tone with assured passing and deft touches in midfield early on.
Her clever movement allowed Tosin to find Gift Monday with a first-time diagonal forcing a corner leading to the opening goal. One quality of Abiodun that stood out was her positional awareness. She was always in the right place to tackle, intercept, or make a block which bellies her age.
Cape Verde struggled to get a foothold in the game all afternoon and this was largely down to Abiodun’s mobility and superb combination play with Peace Efih and Toni Payne in midfield.
2. Uchenna Kanu: Leading the line in the absence of Asisat Oshoala and Ifeoma Onomunu Kanu showed predatory instincts all day long. Stretching the Cape Verdians with her direct runs.
The opening goal was largely down to Kanu’s work – dropping a shoulder to slam home with left foot. Cape Verde had failed to clear their lines after a corner when the ball dropped to Kanu. It seemed the chance had gone but she manufactured a finesse to put Nigeria ahead.
There were concerns about a wobbling Kanu after a tweak to her ankle but she recovered to put the Falcons 3-nil up (her second goal of the game) in first-half added time with a ruthless finish via the underside of the bar and a Cantona-esque celebration to cap it.
3. Esther Okoronkwo: Esther treated herself to 2-well-taken goals in the second half and was a constant threat after her introduction.
What caught the eye was her sixth sense to anticipate and latch onto balls into the box first from Esther Akudo and then Rofiat Imuran to score Nigeria’s 4th and 5th goals of the afternoon.
Coach Madugu’s remarks about Okoronkwo after the game: “Sometimes you look at her as a magical player. You can’t predict what she can do and she’s always dangerous around the box. She’s a player that can be a game-changer…”
4. Toni Payne: Payne’s influence on the pitch continues to grow in ‘leaps and bounds’ and today’s mature performance in the number 10 role for Nigeria was incredible.
The visitors generally struggled with Payne’s movement, energy, and creativity with her set-piece deliveries posing the biggest problems for their defenses.
In Payne, the Super Falcons have a player who can unlock the tightest of backlines either from a set play or incisive ball. She’s an asset.
5. Peace Efih: The industrious, hardworking Efih bossed around the midfield, and was neat in her distribution. Combining with Abiodun meant she had to drop deep most of the time.
Efih had the freedom of the Moshood Abiola turf and could hit a 50-yarder all she wanted cos of the space and time afforded by the visitors. The forwards Kanu, Gift, and Rasheedat all received long balls from her to stretch their visitors.
She came off early in the second half after the result had been secured.