Super Falcons Coach Thomas Dennerby said his team to the 2018 African Women Cup of Nations in Ghana is “a good mix of very experienced players from abroad and also really talented good players from the domestic league” and even though a lack of friendly matches against national teams means that he is “not sure exactly where we are at the moment” his target remains to “secure a ticket to France next year”.
The Super Falcons start their quest to retain their trophy and secure a record-extending ninth championship when they take on Bayana Bayana tomorrow at the Cape Coast stadium and Dennerby who was addressing the media in a pre-match conference said that while there’s a lot of “spirit” and “experience” in the squad, the Falcons’ preparation in the lead up to the tournament could have been better.
“I will not say that I’m worried,” Dennerby said, “but the only thing that maybe we should [have done] better is [play] two more friendly games before [the start of the tournament] because now we don’t exactly know where we are with the team.
“We had two friendlies against boys (Dominion Hot Spurs U16 and ASEC Mimosas U16) and one against Eleven Sisters last week, but we didn’t play against another national team so we really are not sure exactly where we are at the moment.”
Hearing Dennerby talk about not being sure of his team ahead of the opener against South Africa will be worrying for fans back home especially considering how the South Africans have been very deliberate with their preparations in the lead up to this tournament.
Whilst Bayana Bayana have played a total of fourteen games and competed in two different tournaments this year alone, the Falcons have only played six matches this year and none since the six-nil demolition of the Gambia in June.
Nigeria have faced off against South Africa eight times in all competitions and most recently at the 2016 AWCON in Cameroon where the Falcons triumphed courtesy of a 54th-minute strike by Desire Oparanozie. And while the Falcons enjoy a superior record with five wins and just a solitary loss, games between these two have always been tight affairs decided by a single goal margin.
It is perhaps with this in mind that Dennerby clearly attempts to lower expectations when he suggests that a point against the South Africans when these teams face off tomorrow at the Cape Coast stadium would be a good result.
“I know it is going to be a really tough game on Sunday,” Dennerby who has also coached the Swedish women national team said about the game against Bayana Bayana.
“I hope we can get a good result, at least it is good for teams in the first game when they start a big tournament to come out with a point because then, whatever happens, you always have the chance to go to the next round. I think it would be a very tight game and it’s almost impossible to tell who’s going to win the game.”
Group B has taken on an interesting dynamic after Equatorial Guinea were reinstated to the competition after having been initially banned from the tournament. But Dennerby says the prospect of facing the two-time champions doesn’t worry him although he says he feels “a little bit sad for Kenya”.
The Falcons have an incredible record in this tournament having won it a record eight times and often come into these tournaments as overwhelming favourites. For Dennerby though, the goal coming into the 2018 tournament has always been about securing qualification for the 2019 FIFA Women World Cup in France first and a tournament triumph secondary.
“Our main target is to secure a ticket to France next year, number two is to win the tournament. We always go to any game and tournament with an attitude to win every game and that will start tomorrow.
“But we also know that it is a good team that we play and if we are not lucky in the first game which can happen to any team in a tournament, we have to work so much and go on to the next game and start all over again,” he said.