African champions, Super Falcons of Nigeria shot back to contention at the 11th Women Africa Cup of Nations after a 4-0 thrashing of erstwhile Group leaders Shepolopolo of Zambia in Cape Coast.
A one goal defeat in their opening match against South Africa on Sunday had marooned the champions in third place on the Group B table, following Zambia’s 5-0 win over two-time champions Equatorial Guinea. But the Zambians could not hold a candle to the Falcons when the die was cast on Wednesday evening.
The scoreline was only two goals short of the 6-0 hiding the Zambians received from the Nigerians in Namibia four years ago, but that would not have been the case had reigning African Woman Player of the Year, Asisat Oshoala not, inexplicably, failed to put away any of one dozen gilt-edged opportunities that came her way.
After Oshoala failed to get enough purchase on her shot in the 9th minute, Captain Onome Ebi and Rita Chikwelu came close with headers, but Zambia also side –netted as a tight game played out at the Cape Coast Stadium.
Desire Oparanozie, who scored the lone goal in the final of the last edition of the championship in Cameroon two years ago, which was enough for the Falcons to retain their trophy, blasted past goalkeeper Nali in the 41st minute after a good pass from Francisca Ordega to register Nigeria’s first goal of the tournament.
In the second half, the Falcons created chance after chance, but Oshoala either blasted them away from goal or Nali simply foiled her efforts. The entry of Josephine Chukwunonye, for injured Faith Michael, appeared to reinvigorate Nigeria. After Oparanozie rounded the goalkeeper but saw her shot blocked from going in, Oshoala missed a string of sitters and Ordega saw her good chip saved.
Ordega would get the second goal in the 70th minute, cashing in and rolling a volley past Nali after Oparanozie’s shot came off the upright.
Substitutes Rasheedat Ajibade and Amarachi Okoronkwo got two more goals, Rasheedat scoring with a spectacular screamer that saw the ball come in off the underside of the bar. Okoronkwo finished beautifully after picking up a loose ball from a corner kick.
The result took the Falcons top of the Group B table above the Shepolopolo, ahead of the second match of the pool between South Africa and Equatorial Guinea later on Wednesday.
Next up for Nigeria is their final group game against Equatorial Guinea on Saturday.