Despite having reigned in Africa for many years, the Nigerians have made little impression on the world stage. In five appearances at the FIFA Women's World Cup finals, two at the Olympic Football Tournament and three at the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup, the Super Falcons have only managed to progress beyond the opening round on two occasions. Led by emerging star Cynthia Uwak, the U-20s made it all the way to the quarter-finals at Thailand 2004 only to lose out on penalties to eventual champions Germany. The African queens bowed out at the same stage in Russia two years later following a 2-1 defeat to Brazil.
After flattering to deceive once more at China 2007, when they drew with Sweden and went down to Korea DPR and USA, the Nigerians quickly recovered their poise to secure a ticket to Beijing 2008. Their one and only qualifying defeat was a 1-0 loss to Ghana, a setback that did little to dent their reputation as the pre-eminent force on the continent. The aim now is to perform in Beijing, and the man entrusted with the task of fulfilling the promise of this fast-evolving squad is Joseph Ladipo, aka Jossy Lad.
"Qualifying for the Olympics is not an end in itself. It was only to be expected for a team of our status. We are continuing to make progress and I have a feeling the girls can go on and do great things at the Games. They are hard workers and they pay attention. If we can get our preparations right and set up some high-profile friendlies before the tournament, the fine blend we've got here could cause a real splash in the summer." If Jossy Lad is to be believed, the Super Falcons have a very bright future ahead of them. All they have to do now is back up their coach's fighting words with actions in August.
Facts and figures
Mercy Akide (2000), Perpetua Nkwocha (2000), Precious Dede (2004) and Vera Okolo (2004)
Faith Ikidi (defender), Ulumma Jerome (defender), Cynthia Uwak (forward), Ifeanyi Chiejine (forward) and Rita Chikwelu (forward)
Jossy's girls disposed of Algeria 6-1 on aggregate to advance to the final group phase. Making light of that defeat to Ghana, the Nigerians won their three other games in the three-team group, scoring eight and conceding one.
The numbers game
1: The position Nigeria have held in African football since the introduction of the FIFA Women's World Ranking in 2003.