WAFCON 2022 Preview: Nigeria VS Morocco

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Hosts Morocco face its biggest test at the ongoing Women’s Africa Cup of Nations (WAFCON), when they take on the reigning African champions the Super Falcons of Nigeria on Monday for a place in the final, at the Moulay Abdallah Stadium in Rabat by 9pm (Nigerian time).

Monday’s clash is a record 12th time Nigeria will be featuring in the semifinals of the WAFCON tournament and they have won the competition nine times, falling short only in 2008 and 2012. The big question is – can Morocco stop the Super Falcons?

The Atlas Lionesses of Morocco have won all their four games at the continental tournament so far, but against the Super Falcons, they face a very experienced team. Super Falcons midfielder Sonia Ngozi Okobi-Okeoghene said Nigeria would not be intimidated by the fanatical support the hosts are sure to receive in the match.

Super Falcons of Nigeria in training ahead of WAFCON semi-final match against Morocco.

“We have played against teams playing at home and we know how to manage games like this,” Okobi-Okeoghene said.

“We do not care about how many people are in the stadium. We shall come into this game with the sole purpose of winning and going to the final.”

Nigeria defeated Cameroon 1-0 in the 2016 final in front of over 42,000 fans inside the Ahmadu Ahidjo Stadium and according to Ngozi, that experience will come in handy. The Sweden-based midfield genius is hoping to play in her fifth WAFCON final, but Morocco stands in their way.

Reynald Pedros’ Moroccan side have grown from strength to strength in the tournament defeating debutants Burkina Faso and Botswana as well as Uganda and Senegal.

However, taking on the record nine-time champions Nigeria poses an even bigger test for Morocco.

The Atlas Lionesses of Morocco.

“We are preparing the same way that we have been preparing for the other matches. We are doing our best. After the quarterfinal, we are well-rested and trying to remain focused on our next objective,” Morocco coach Pedros said.

“We have qualified for the World Cup and now our next target is to make it to the final and win the WAFCON 2022. Nigeria is truly a strong team – the strongest in Africa. They always qualify for the World Cup. We have studied them and know their strength.”

“And I can say that in the semifinal, everything is possible. We need to do our best. We know that they are strong. They are the strongest for many years. We know this, however, we are going to do our best in this game. We know who we are facing. It is up to us,”Pedros added.

Nigeria have already tasted defeat in this tournament losing 2-1 in their opener against rivals South Africa and according to the head coach Randy Waldrum, the Super Falcons do not want to feel the way they did two weeks ago.

“Coming into the WAFCON, our goal was to qualify for the World Cup and we have done that,” Super Falcons coach Randy Waldrum said in a press conference.

“Now, we have turned our focus on winning our 10th title and we want to do exactly that. We know that Morocco will have the home crowd behind them but we shall be up for the challenge.”

Nigeria will need to be mindful of Morocco’s dead ball specialty having scored all their seven goals from the spot (three goals) and four off free-kicks in fine fashion, with captain Ghizlane Chebbak leading the way in execution including two penalties.

Chebbak is also the tournament leading goal scorer with three goals so far alongside Nigeria’s poster girl Rasheedat Ajibade. Ajibade has taken over scoring duties especially in the absence of four-time record African Player of the Year Asisat Oshoala, who suffered an injury in their opener against South Africa.

Both sides have only conceded twice in the tournament and boast of the best defensive setups in the tournament with both coaches having their work cut out on how to break down their opponents.

 

Chidi Nwoke/CAF/Super Falcons.