“The Times When You Win Games Because You Have Nigeria on Your Shirt is Over” – Dennerby

Super Falcons Coach Thomas Dennerby has urged his players to “work smart” and replicate their performance against Zambia when they take on Equatorial Guinea in their final Group B match at the ongoing 2018 Africa Women Cup of Nations “because the times when you win games because you have Nigeria on your shirt is over now”.

Defending champions the Falcons play two-time champions Nzalang Nacional at the Cape Coast Sports Stadium by 5 pm on Saturday, 24 November and require a victory to be sure of progressing to the semi-final.

In a chat with busybuddiesng.com Dennerby said getting a victory against Equatorial Guinea hinges on his wards maintaining the same performance levels as their previous game as well as applying a measure of intelligence to their play.

“First of all, we have to have a performance at the same level as we had [against Zambia],” Dennerby told busybuddiesng.com about how he would be instructing the Falcons to approach the game.

“We need to stay focused and we need to work hard. Often when you say hard work people only think that you have to fight, fight, fight, but hard work for me is also to play the crucial pass to take responsibility to play passes with accuracy to finish well that’s a bit of the hard work part of it.

“So for me, hard work is not just run, run, run because if you run and run the wrong way it’s not good and if you run too much sometimes it’s not good so you have to be smart. To be smart is also part of hard work.”

After putting four goals past the Zambian team who themselves defeated Equatorial Guinea by five unanswered goals, there is a danger that the Falcons might approach this game with a complacency that might cost them.

“I hope not. We need to be humble,” Dennerby said about the possibility that the Falcons could be overconfident ahead of the game.

The Swede emphasized the importance of putting the game to bed as early as possible pointing to the game against Zambia as an instance where the Falcons toiled until they built a sufficient goal buffer.

“As long as it’s one nil, maybe two nil they will fight, fight, fight, if you look at the game [against Zambia] for example as long as we had one nil they really fight a lot Zambia, but after we scored two nil we created a lot of chances and I think it can be the same [as] against Equatorial Guinea that we need to [be] at least two goals up before they give up as long.

“As they are into it and one nil is definitely nothing in football because there can be one corner kick or free kick or a counter-attack to score one goal in football that can happen very quick in football and it can come out of nothing but to score two is more difficult.”

Having tinkered with his side in the opening match defeat to South Africa when he started Rasheedat Ajibade, the former coach of the Sweden national women team decided to revert to the more experienced Ngozi Okobi for the Zambia game which the Falcons won convincingly. The tactician maintains, however, that his decision to swap personnel was purely tactical and not necessarily correction of a selection error.

“We know that Rash [Ajibade] has a really good playing mind, she knows what to do and we felt maybe we can bring her in second half totally fresh and find new solutions for the attacking players so it was more a tactical reason than that we were not satisfied with her, definitely we are satisfied with her the first game.”

As the team gets set to take on Equatorial Guinea, Dennerby hopes lessons from the defeat to South Africa in their first game remain fresh in their minds. Having won these championships eight times (ten times in all its iterations) the Falcons have enjoyed a stifling dominance over women football on the continent over the years so much so that according to Dennerby the players have come to believe that they could win matches “even if they play with two left foot”.

But the Swede says that loss to South Africa was perhaps the jolt the team needed to help them understand that reputation counts for little in football.

“Definitely in one way [the loss was good] because the times when you win games because you have Nigeria on your shirt is over now and other teams are working hard and they’ve improved and we need to work as hard as all the others if we want to win any game at all.

“So I think it’s a good wake up call for everybody that elite football today you need to have good performances to win.”