Super Falcons’ Coach, Randy Waldrum, believes Nigeria has the talent to go all the way at the ongoing FIFA Women World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.
The Nigerian team is in the round of 16 where the Falcons will meet European champions, England, on Monday in Brisbane. The team were outstanding in a poolo tagged ‘Group of death’ by pundits following the presence Japan 2020 Olympics champions, Canada, Australia, Ireland and the Falcons.
At 40, Nigeria were the least ranked team in the group, but they stunned the world by holding Canada to a draw, beating Australia before a final draw with Ireland, which sealed their passage to the round of 16.
As usual, many people believe that Monday’s game would go England’s way, but Waldrum is not taking that. Asked about the reasons behind his team’s impressive tournament so far, Waldrum highlighted two key elements.
He told FIFA.com, “The first thing is the chemistry and the bond we have. You heard Asisat (Oshoala) speak after the Australia game, she said it’s not about whether she plays for 90 minutes or not, she’s going to give her best no matter how long she has on the field. She also very quickly complimented her team-mates and the effort of the team. She gave them the credit even though she scored such a big goal for us. That’s the attitude all of our players have.
“The other thing that really impresses me is the fight this team has. It’s one thing to have talent and have a good team, but there’s something to be said about your heart and what’s inside you. That’s innate and it’s part of their DNA. Against Australia, it would have been easy to have folded after going a goal down late in the first half, yet we came back and got the equaliser before the break. This team’s resolve, competitiveness and fight have been nothing short of amazing.”
Speaking on the game against Ireland, Waldrum said: “This game is a little bit different for us. Coming from the U.S., I knew Canada very well and have even coached quite a few of those players over the years. I knew how they were going to play and making the game plan was a little easier. We scouted Australia for a while and knew what their strengths were.
“Ireland have done extremely well in this tournament. Even though they are eliminated, they played two very good matches and were probably a little bit unlucky not to get a result against Canada. They are a top-20 team (in the FIFA/Coca-Cola Women’s World Ranking) and we’re 40th.”
Waldrum said his target is to surpass the Falcons’ 1999 feat of reaching the quarterfinals, adding, however, that they are first concentrating on the game against England.
“I know the 1999 team were very successful (Nigeria reached the Women’s World Cup quarter-finals at that tournament) and we’ve got out of the group stage twice in our history, but I don’t know that any team has had this kind of competition in the group before.
“I just feel like they all believe we are destined for something special at this World Cup.Our journey is not over and we will be very, very well prepared for whoever we play next week,” he said.