Falconets look good for 9th World Cup berth despite South Africa

Pushing for a possible debut at the 2018 FIFA Under-20 Women’s World Cup, the Basetsanas will be lurking like a bruised lion against the Falconets in Benin on Saturday.

The Falconets host the Basetsanas in a final qualifying round return leg tie at the Samuel Ogbemudia Staduim, with the fire of Nigeria-South Africa rivalry being rekindled.

Both sides have an eye on securing one of Africa’s two tickets to the World Cup showpiece in France from Aug. 5 to Aug. 24.

But the tie seems heavily skewed in favour of the Falconets team led by coach Christopher Danjuma which has not lost a game since the qualifiers began.

They won the first leg tie about a fortnight ago 2-0 at the Peter Mokaba Stadium in Polokwane, and can be viewed as favorites to get the chance to represent the continent in France.

No one can argue against this, as Nigeria have not missed out of the FIFA Under-20 Women’s World Cup since its inception in 2002.

The team, through the previous qualifiers against Tanzania and Morocco, has exposed the scoring abilities of strikers Rasheedat Ajibade, Anam Imo and Charity Reuben.

The Basetsanas should therefore be wary of Ajibade who has recorded a total of eight goals so far in the qualifiers.

The FC Robo captain, who is behind Ghana’s Priscillia Adubea with nine goals, will be looking to emerge top scorer in the qualifiers.

However, the home team intends to put behind their away victory and see Saturday’s game as the “final before the final’’, according to Mansur Abdullahi, the team’s assistant coach.

“We have put behind us the match against South Africa and it has nothing to do with the match on Saturday. We are just assuming this is our first meeting. This is the final before the final.

“Nigeria has not lost out in the qualifiers before, and our case cannot be different. We are not just looking at qualification, but to break the jinx that Nigeria has never won the Under- 20 Women’s World Cup,’’ he said.

Abdullahi said they were ready for the match as friendly games have been played against Edo Queens, a clubside in the Nigeria Women Premier League (NWPL), and Super Lions FC.

“I am sure this has helped the side in getting ready for the match,’’ he said.

The coach was however emphatic that the team would not underrate their visitors, though he was confident that his side would emerge victorious at the end.

“Every game has its approach. The Maude Khamalo ladies are a good side and we respect them, but we cannot watch them take the ticket from us.

“They lost 0-2 to Burundi, in one of their qualifiers, but we have never lost, and at the Under-20 level, no Nigerian side has beaten South Africa 2-0 on their home ground, but we did that.

“ Our efforts for over seven months now cannot go in vain. So, we are ready and God’s willing, the team will make Nigerians happy,’’ Abdullahi added.

But the Nigerian side has to be wary of South Africa’s Linda Motlhalo and Gabriella Salgado, who can create a major upset in the home side’s defenceline.

Motlhalo has scored six goals so far, with compatriot Salgado recording three goals, and the duo can be out to utilise any available opportunity to score.

The Falconets will no doubt have all the support necessary, from fans to the Edo state government and the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF).

So, when centre referee Gladys Lengwe from Zambia gets the game going, it will not be about style, skill or technique alone, but about who win on aggregate to join either Ghana or Cameroon as Africa’s representatives in France in August. (NAN)

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