Nigeria’s Super Falcons have been a dominant force in African women’s football for almost two decades, but, by their own admission, they have been perennial underachievers on the world stage. As they embark on yet another audacious journey to claim some elusive silverware at the highest level, more questions have once again been asked about this Super Falcons team. However, this time they seem more determined, more focused and more wise about appreciating their considerable experience. Most of the players of a famed "golden generation" are on their last lap and probably playing at their last world championship, and they should certainly be driven to go out with one last hurrah for these stars of African football.
After wrapping up yet another continental triumph at the Africa Women's Championship in South Africa in November, the Super Falcons shifted their attention to Germany 2011 where they will be expected to elevate their game against some of the world’s most decorated teams. Nigeria have reached all five previous FIFA Women's World Cup finals, but they have only advanced out of the group stage once. For a side that has always been blessed with talent and natural goalscorers, their problems at previous tournaments might be said to run deeper than strictly the level of ability in the team. Whether they can put aside their anxieties and play to the standard they are capable of will be the big question for the African champions.
The road to Germany
Nigeria were unbeaten at the recent CAF Women’s Championships in South Africa where they finished as champions, beating holders Equatorial Guinea 4-2 in a pulsating final. By reaching the ultimate match at the continental finals, they gained automatic qualification for the FIFA Women's World Cup.
The star players
Throughout the years, Nigeria has been a talent factory for women’s football on the continent. The duo of Stella Mbachu and Perpetua Nkwocha remain the most potent weapons of the Super Falcons. Although they are both probably on their way off of the international stage, both Mbachu and Nkwocha have been enjoying a rich vein of form lately. Two-time African player of the year Nkwocha has been one of the deadliest strikers in the game for many years and is expected to once again lead the onslaught on opposition teams in Germany.
Former Super Falcons legend Ngozi Uche has done a sterling job since taking over the reins of this team. When she took over as Super Falcons coach, there were some doubts about her ability to lead Africa's marquee side despite the fact that she earned her stripes while deputising for several coaches. She used that time to learn the ropes and when she was given the job, she rose to the occasion. At the championships in South Africa, she was the only female coach of the eight guiding the teams.
Previous FIFA Women's World Cups
6 – The number of times Nigeria have won the African Women’s Championships, out of seven events. The Super Falcons have only lost once in the tournament, in 2008's semi-finals, when they fell to Equatorial Guinea.
19 – The number of goals Nigeria scored in their five matches at the 2010 Africa Women’s Championships.
What they said
“We have a good team and what is important is that we are constantly improving. In football, there is always room for improvement, and, as we focus on the World Cup, we will look at correcting our past mistakes so that we can put on a good show at the finals,” Ngozi Uche, Super Falcons coach.