Fran­cisca Ordega: Gap be­tween Su­per Fal­cons and other teams closing very fast

Weekly Trust - - Sports - David Ngobua

Su­per Fal­cons at­tack­ing winger, Fran­cisca Ordega has raised the alarm that other teams in Africa are fast closing the gap that once ex­isted be­tween them and Nige­ria. In this ex­clu­sive in­ter­view with the Wash­ing­ton Spir­its of the USA star said the per­for­mance teams at the just con­cluded 2018 AW­CON in Ghana is a dis­turb­ing sign that in the next four to five years, Su­per Fal­cons may not dom­i­nate African women foot­ball again.

How happy are you with the vic­tory of the Su­per Fal­cons at the re­cently con­cluded Africa Women’s Cup of Nations, AW­CON, in Ghana? The feel­ing is quite spe­cial con­sid­er­ing that many things weren’t right with the team. It wasn’t an easy task to suc­cess­fully de­fend the ti­tle. Ev­ery other team went into the tour­na­ment with the aim of win­ning but we were able to prove that de­spite our short­com­ings, we are still the best team. I want to thank God almighty for giv­ing us the vic­tory which didn’t come on a plat­ter of gold. And the ic­ing on the cake I can say is the fact that I scored two goals and won two Woman of the Match awards.

How­ever, you were left out of CAF’s best XI team. How dis­ap­pointed are you that you were ex­cluded?

Sure, I feel dis­ap­pointed be­cause ev­ery­body can see that by my per­for­mance I de­served to be in the list. Some of the play­ers who made the best XI didn’t win a sin­gle Woman of the Match award. I scored two goals and won two Woman of the Match awards yet I was left out of the team. Well, I am not los­ing any sleep over that. The truth is when you know you did well and ev­ery­body saw what you were able to do, that is all. The most im­por­tant thing is that I helped my team to win the tour­na­ment.

Many peo­ple said Su­per Fal­cons semi­fi­nal clash against Cameroon was the fi­nal be­fore fi­nal. Was that the most dif­fi­cult match for the team?

I agree with those who feel that way but to some ex­tent. It was in­deed fi­nal be­fore fi­nal but that is not to take any­thing away from the real fi­nal with South Africa. Phys­i­cally, that was the most dif­fi­cult match but tac­ti­cally, it wasn’t. We all know that Cameroo­ni­ans are usu­ally very phys­i­cal in their play and that was ex­actly what we met on that day. They are strong play­ers who have been to­gether for long. So like I said, tac­ti­cally the South Africans were bet­ter and more dif­fi­cult to con­tend with. They re­ally de­ployed tac­tics that made it very dif­fi­cult for teams to cope with them. The Bayana Bayana have im­proved tremen­dously.

From what you have said, you weren’t sur­prised that the Bayana Bayana de­feated the Su­per Fal­cons in the open­ing match.......

No, not at all. I wasn’t sur­prised be­cause they re­ally pre­pared for the Nations Cup. I was very happy for what they were able to achieve. I know they were all out to go to their first World Cup, so they re­ally worked hard for it. They qual­i­fied for the first time for the World Cup and they de­serve their qual­i­fi­ca­tion. Among the teams that were in Ghana, they had the best prepa­ra­tion. They played so many in­ter­na­tional friendly matches be­fore the tour­na­ment. It is just like you are go­ing into a fight and you didn’t pre­pare well. If even­tu­ally you are beaten by your op­po­nent who pre­pared bet­ter, you won’t be sur­prised.

How did the Su­per Fal­cons man­age to stay fo­cused de­spite los­ing the open­ing match to South Africa?

Many Nige­ri­ans didn’t be­lieve in us but we be­lieved in our­selves. We are pro­fes­sional play­ers so we are not new to sit­u­a­tions like the one that was be­fore us. We had to talk to our­selves. Like I said so many peo­ple had writ­ten us off even be­fore the tour­na­ment started. So when we lost to South Africa, it be­came even worse. Some said we were too old and not fit to be at the tour­na­ment. That didn’t stop us from con­cen­trat­ing on what was be­fore us. How­ever, it is the same peo­ple that are singing our praises now. So we knew what we wanted so we didn’t al­low any­thing to dis­tract us.

So what ex­actly was in the mind of the play­ers be­fore the fi­nal against South Africa?

You see most of us are more ex­pe­ri­enced than them so we felt chal­lenged. We all con­cluded that South African won’t beat us twice in the same tour­na­ment. So in as much as we all knew they were well pre­pared, we went all out for our pound of flesh and thank God we got it. We kept talk­ing to our­selves that they won’t beat us twice. There­fore, even as we had al­ready se­cured our World Cup ticket, we were still mo­ti­vated. In the end, we de­feated them.

Go­ing by the per­for­mance of other teams in Ghana, how long do you think the Su­per Fal­cons will main­tain their dom­i­nance in Africa?

Of course, if you have friends who are ahead of you, you don’t go to sleep. You will strive hard to catch up with them. That is ex­actly what is hap­pen­ing. The rest of the teams are try­ing very hard to catch up with Nige­ria. In­deed the gap that once ex­isted be­tween us and other African coun­tries is closing very fast. It is not wide again. Ev­ery­body saw what the South Africans played. Hon­estly, if our do­mes­tic league is not given proper at­ten­tion, very spoon, other coun­tries will take over from Nige­ria. In the next four or five years, other coun­tries will take over from us. The truth is that other coun­tries are de­vel­op­ing women foot­ball from the grass­roots. They have acad­e­mies. But here we have noth­ing. While our team is dom­i­nated by for­eign play­ers other coun­tries are us­ing their lo­cal play­ers to play against us. This is wor­ri­some.

Would you say the present squad is good enough for the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup?

With good prepa­ra­tions, I am sure this squad can do well at the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup in France. We only need to play top in­ter­na­tional friendly matches. We have young play­ers from the U-20 team who have joined up with us and some of us have got World Cup ex­pe­ri­ence so a com­bi­na­tion of youth and ex­pe­ri­ence can take us far in France. So if we pre­pare well, we can go be­yond where we have been stop­ping at the World Cup.

Fran­cisca Ordega

Minister of Sport Bar­ris­ter Solomon Dalung (left) hand­ing over the Torch of Unity to the FCT Minister Muhammed Bello at the Abuja City Gate, Thurs­day. Photo: Olu­sola Jide

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