Barcelona’s Asisat Oshoala enters France 2019 as one of its biggest names
The 24-year-old explains why she never feels under pressure
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By Ann Odong with Nigeria
Asisat Oshoala was, five years ago, universally tipped as the next big superstar in women’s football. The forward was fresh from electrifying at the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup, leaving with the adidas Golden Ball and adidas Golden Boot.
While Nigeria played some of the most entertaining football at the last FIFA Women's World Cup™, they were unable to make it out of a tough group that included eventual champions USA, Australia and Sweden.
Four years on, older and wiser, Asisat Oshoala is now what she was expected to become back then: a genuine star of the global game. She has claimed three African Women’s Footballer of the Year prizes and just agreed a new deal with Spanish giants Barcelona, for whom she scored in the recent UEFA Women’s Champions League final.
With status, however, comes pressure, and Oshoala enters France 2019, which will begin her against Norway on Saturday, carrying the hopes of a football-impassioned nation on her shoulders. That may weigh on some players, but not the Nigeria No8.
“For me, I am never under pressure because I love what I do,” Oshoala told FIFA.com. “I love my job. I see it like I’m going to have fun on the pitch.
“A lot of people are expecting much from me, but for me it’s just a day-to-day thing. Go out there and play football, help the team, help my team-mates, get some goals if possible.”
That mature attitude is one of the reasons coach Thomas Dennerby has appointed Oshoala vice-captain of the Super Falcons, behind skipper Desire Oparanozie. That trust is mutual, with the 24-year-old believing the Swede will play an important part in Nigeria’s success.
“Now we have a lot of professional players, and now we have a professional coach as well, who has experience with other national teams in the same tournament,” said Oshoala. “He has really helped the team to be much better when it comes to the team patterns and understanding your opponent. I feel like we have the quality, and now we have a coach who knows how to use the quality in the team, so it is a big advantage for us.”
The quality is certainly there, with Nigeria boasting one of the most exciting attacks at France 2019. The likes of Francisca Ordega and Ngozi Okobi have four years’ experience in leading women’s football leagues. Add to that thrilling new talent in Rasheedat Ajibade, Anam Imo, Uchenna Kanu and Chinaza Uchendu and the Super Falcons look set to soar.
It has been 20 years since Oshoala’s childhood hero Mercy Akide led Nigeria to the USA 1999 quarter-finals – their best Women’s World Cup performance. Oshoala hopes to follow in Akide’s footsteps and believes the Super Falcons can make a statement at France 2019 and translate their continental dominance into global success.
“We just feel like we don’t want to make up numbers for the tournament,” she said. “We don’t want to be just participants. We want to try and qualify from the group stage and move forward.”