Nkwocha: I want to go out on a high

Nigeria’s Perpetua Nkwocha has crafted a reputation in the women’s game as a driven striker with a knack of scoring crucial goals for the Super Falcons. Throughout the years she has been one of the most consistent success stories on the continent, as proven by her having been named African Women’s Player of the Year two years in succession in 2004 and 2005.

As the Nigerians embark on yet another attempt to assert their authority on a bigger stage, the Sweden-based striker believes Nigeria can finally shrug off the tag of 'underachievers' at next year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup™ in Germany. A lot will be expected from the three-time Olympian as she will spearhead the Nigerian attack against some of the finest teams in women’s football.

Age is not on her side and by her own admission this will be her last chance to inspire Nigeria to an unprecedented triumph at the FIFA Women’s World Cup. And although she will be 35 when the finals roll around, her inspirational performances at the recent CAF Africa Women’s Championships, not to mention her 11 goals, helped Nigeria to their eighth continental triumph in nine attempts.

In an exclusive interview with FIFA.com, she spoke about her future plans and what it means to be part of the current Nigerian team.

FIFA.com: First of all, congratulations on yet another African Women’s Championship. Has it now become habitual to win this tournament for Nigeria?
Perpetua Nkwocha: We are extremely excited about these results; this means a lot to us as a team and to the rest of the Nigerian people. Before this tournament, we faced some level of criticism, but we were determined to win this trophy again. We have worked very hard for it.

Two years ago, you were part of the team that lost in the semi-final to Equatorial Guinea, the team you beat in the final this time. Were you motivated by a will to avenge that loss?
No, not at all, we were never motivated by revenge. Yes, it’s good to win the tournament and maybe it does feel good to beat them in the final. But they are a good side, we respect them a lot, and they have improved a lot. We lost to them two years ago and that was disappointing.

Some will say we have underachieved there, I wouldn’t agree with that entirely. What is important is for us to forget about what happened in the past and concentrate on the upcoming World Cup.
Nkwocha on Nigeria's history at the FIFA Women's World Cup and their chances in Germany

You have been an integral part of this Nigerian side for many years now, would you say the current team is the best Nigerian side you have played in?
That is always difficult to answer. Two years ago, we did not have a strong team. Now, we have many talented youngsters coming through. We have a lot of players who played at the U-20 World Cup and we are now gelling as a team. The most important thing is to keep the core of this team, we need to be consistent. I think we can only judge this team after the World Cup in Germany. The previous teams have not done well (at the World Cup finals), but we are determined to change that. We have to work a bit harder in our game and correct our mistakes. At that level, you can’t afford to relax.

Talking about that, why do you think the Super Falcons have not excelled at the World Cup while they continue to dominate in Africa?
That is the question everyone is asking. I think we have also asked ourselves that question a lot. I think there are a number of factors that have contributed to that. Some will say we have underachieved there, I wouldn’t agree with that entirely. What is important is for us to forget about what happened in the past and concentrate on the upcoming World Cup.

How long do you see yourself remaining part of the Falcons set-up?
(Laughs) Honestly, I don’t know. But as I said last week [at a press conference], this is going to be my last World Cup. That is why it’s important to make it a memorable tournament for me and the team. I have to consider a lot of things before I make that decision [to retire]. The most important thing is to listen to my body. If I feel like I should hang my boots, I will do so. But I still have to think about that decision a lot.

You and Equatorial Guinea will be representing Africa at the FIFA Women’s World Cup. What is your take on them and their chances?
I think they are a good side. Of course when we have to play against them, there is rivalry, but when we travel to the World Cup, we will be representing Africa and that means we must support each other. I wish them luck.

Lastly, what would you want to achieve on a personal level before you retire?
That is easy to answer: I want to be part of a Nigerian side that will win the World Cup. That is my desire. As I said, we can do that, we just need to believe. If we can win it, I’m sure I will be content with what I have done in football. I still want to score many goals.