By Francis Ajuonuma
Years back the mere mention of the Super Falcons in any African championship was a nightmare to opposing teams.
At that period, the Super Falcons were such a dominant side no African team wish to play against, and records available speak volumes of that.
In the 13 African women’s championship, the Super Falcons have lifted the title 11 times, losing it twice to Equatorial Guinea as host in 2008 and 2012.
However, the unfolding at the ongoing Women’s Africa Cup of Nations (WAFCON) in Rabat, Morocco has put a huge question mark on the continuous dominance of the Super Falcons in African football.
Though, the Super Falcons are among the four teams – Zambia, South Africa and host country Morocco that have sealed their place in the semi-finals of the African Championship and qualify for the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup to be jointly hosted by Australia and New Zealand, their performance so far in the championship has been unconvincing.
Playing against the Banyana Banyana of South Africa in Group C opener of the ongoing WAFCON, the Super Eagles were comprehensively beaten by the youthful South Africans who displayed a lot of zeal, hunger, and quality football, unlike their Nigerian counterparts that relied so much on experience.
The defending African champions however bounced back to win their remaining two Group C matches against debutants- Botswana and Burundi by 2-0 and 4-0 respectively. They followed it with quarter-finals hard earning a 1-0 win over the Indomitable Lionesses of Cameroon.
Apart from the South Africans, who have shown impressive qualities capable of stopping the Super Falcons as they did at the last Aisha Buhari International tournament in Lagos, the host country, Morocco also comes to mind.
Their impressive run in the championship which has seen them record four wins in four games, just like the South Africans, cannot be overlooked. They are a bunch of skillful players, playing with a lot of confidence, free-flow football, high pressing, and well-coordinated. The same can also be said about the Zambians.
Some football pundits have described the ongoing African Championship as very competitive compared to past editions and doubt the chances of the Super Falcons retaining their title in Morocco.
They believe that the Super Falcons have lost the fear factor attached to them as teams now look at them eye-ball-to-eye-ball without blinking as was evident in the group matches against South Africa, Botswana, and Burundi as well as the quarter-final against Cameroon.
“Honestly, this edition of the Africa Women’s Football Championship has been very competitive. The standard has been very high and no team is a push-over. Even the debutants proved difficult to beat,” said a fan named Mr Segun Ademola
A sports programme presenter, Ola Semiu, in his submission said, “So far the standard of the championship has been very high. We’ve seen teams playing with a lot of confidence and quality. The South African team, the host country Morocco, and even the Zambians have shown huge qualities to win the title. For the Super Falcons, they need to put in more effort to stand any chance in the battle for the trophy.
“I stand to be corrected but I want to believe that the time has come to make our domestic league more competitive and attractive to get the best out of our players and stop the over-reliance on foreign-based players.
Another football enthusiast, Chibuzo Okolie, (aka Up Gunners) said, “The championship has been very tough, apart from the 4-0 win the Super Falcons posted against Burundi, I don’t think this edition of the championship has recorded high winning margins. I’m very impressed with the quality of football on display in Morocco. So far the Super Falcons have not done badly but they need to improve on their play.”
However, if the comments from the pundits are anything to go by, then, it will not be out of place to warn that the Super Falcon’s era of dominance of African football is under threat.