Barcelona Femeni of Spain attacker, Asisat Oshoala has come out with a veiled hint that uncertainty over the technical crew of the Nigerian women’s national team, Super Falcons accounted for their inability to qualify for next year’s Olympic Games, megasportsarena.com reports.
Speaking in the wake of the Falcons’ 1-1 draw with Cote d’Ivoire at Agege Stadium, Lagos yesterday, Oshoala, who captained the Nigerian team in the encounter, said she was proud of her colleagues’ efforts, but put their exit down to ill-luck and instability in their technical crew before both legs between the two West African countries.
The first leg ended in a goalless draw last week in Abidjan, such that Cote d’Ivoire moved into the final stage of the African qualifiers for the Tokyo 2020 women’s football event on away goals rule, but Oshoala admitted it would have been a different story had the Nigerian team, not been distracted by off fields issues, which also included a hasty change in the captain’s band.
She, however, kept mum on controversy that erupted after Falcons’ interim coach, Christopher Danjuma opted to strip Desire Oparanozie off the skipper’s band and hand it to her, as Oshoala chose instead to stress how the element of luck played a key role in handing Les Elephantes the bragging rights across two legs in Abidjan and Lagos.
After a barren draw in Abidjan four days earlier, the Falcons were favoured to finish the job in Agege, but coach Clementine Toure and her charges had other ideas, as the visitors went a goal up after 12 minutes, courtesy Nina Zote Kpaho from a well-taken free-kick, before Oshoala drew the hosts level on 32 minutes.
However, the Nigerians were frustrated by the Ivorians, who thwarted all their efforts at goal in the second period, and edged out the nine-time African champions in the race to Tokyo 2020, in which Cote d’Ivoire will face the winner of DR Congo versus Cameroon, while Kenya battle Ghana in Nairobi and Botswana host Zambia, for Africa’s single automatic ticket to The Land of The Rising Sun, as well as runners-up alternative route through a play-off against Chile.
Oshoala admitted it is a heavy blow that she and her colleagues are no longer in the race to Topkyo, as she was eagerly looking forward to the opportunity of taking Nigerian back to the glory days of the Falcons, which saw them line out among the world’s best at Sydney 2000, Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008.
The ex-FC Robo Queens of Lagos, Rivers Angels of Port Harcourt, Arsenal and Liverpool Ladies of England as well as ex-Dalian Quanjian of China star, however, stopped short of scolding Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) for the manner they handled the matter of the Falcons’ coach, Thomas Dennerby going AWOL before the first match against Cote d’Ivoire.
She instead stated that the officials tried their best to get the technical crew back into proper shape and fully focused for the qualifiers, but reasoned that it all boiled down to luck being against them eventually, as Nigeria will now miss the Olympics’ female football event for the third edition running, after also being absent at London 2012 and Rio 2016.
The skipper’s talk about ill-luck was apparently supported when Rasheedat Ajibade received a pass as the Falcons enjoyed some moments of possession early in the second half, but her final touch let her down while a Francisca Ordega shot cannoned off the cross bar in the 57th minute.
Oshoala retorted: “I am not happy that we were not able to win this match and that we could not qualify for the Olympic Games, but these kind of things do happen in football.
“I am proud of the team, all the players gave their best, and we all wanted to qualify, but we were just unlucky not to score.
“(One issue that affected us was that) they tried to get the technical crew together, but it did not work. The federation tried their best for us, but it was all a matter of luck not being on our side.”