Nigeria have been something of a revelation at Azerbaijan 2012 – confident, free-scoring and fast-paced, but when they face France tomorrow coach Peter Dedevbo plans to present an even slicker Flamingoes outfit.
They racked up an impressive 15 goals over three games in Group A, but while the majority may have come in their 11-0 victory over the hosts, they were far from efficient with their chance-taking, an issue Dedevbo is keen to eradicate before their quarter-final.
“We create chances and that’s the most important thing, as there are some teams that play and don’t create chances, and if you don’t create you don’t score goals,” the Nigerian coach told FIFA.com. “I’m happy as at least my team are creating chances, but what we want to do is work harder on getting the opportunities and taking them too.
The statistics back up his frustrations. Even though 15 goals is a more-than-healthy tally - fellow Group A qualifiers Canada scored three, they had a monumental 92 shots. Just 47 hit the target however, while they hit the post four times against the North Americans, on top of a host of missed sitters against Azerbaijan.
“In our first game against Canada we had all the chances but we threw them away. After that match against Canada we pretty much went back to the drawing board to work on our finishing, which we did, and it paid off somewhat against Azerbaijan,” he said.
“One thing that I will want to take into the quarter-finals is to continue to improve our quality in front of goal. We don’t know how many chances we will make, but if we create five chances against France we want to take four.”
It’s an efficiency that Dedevbo hopes will help see them not fall at the quarter-final stage like they did at Trinidad and Tobago 2010, when he was also in charge of the team. They lost in an epic 6-5, two-hour encounter with eventual champions Korea Republic, a game where they similarly dominated in terms of shots on goal but were undone by their profligacy.
Sarah Nnodim and Oluchi Ofoegbu told FIFA.com earlier in the tournament that they have learnt from the mistakes of that game, and Dedevbo similarly feels he has grown since the experience. “The Trinidad and Tobago World Cup really brought on my views about women’s football and big stage competitions. We lost in the quarter-finals, but we have done what can to correct the areas that caused that defeat here in Azerbaijan.”
One thing he will have on his side is two of the tournament’s most prolific goal scorers in Chinwendu Ihezuo and Halimatu Ayinde, with the former playing a part in 11 of their goals so far. On the pair, Dedevbo said: “I’m happy with their performances, it’s great that they are both scoring and providing goals.”
The Flamingoes’ speed and power is enough to trouble any side, but the nimbleness and creativity of France will be a much weightier task for the African side than they've faced, with Les Bleuettes battle-hardened after negotiating their way through a challenging Group B.
Even so, Dedevbo declared his confidence for the game at 8km Stadium. “We respect every team that came to this world cup, I’d like to they they will respect us too. We are good at working against any team, in terms of France they have amazing quality but when we meet in the quarter-finals we want to present a different team than that who faced Colombia.”