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Tuesday, August 16, 2022

WAFCON 2022: Ebi, Ajibade Ruled Out Of Super Falcons Clash against Zambia

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Following a narrow defeat in the hands of the host nation, Morocco in the semi-finals of the 2022 Women’s Africa Cup of Nations (WAFCON), Nigeria’s Super Falcons will look to get a relief when they take on Zambia in the third place match on Friday at the Complexe Mohamed V in Casablanca at 9 pm.

Coach Randy Waldrum is optimistic that the Super Falcons will give their all despite a rash of injuries and suspensions in the camp of the nine-time champions.

WAFCON 2022

“We have two players suspended as a result of red cards in the last game, and we also have some players down with an injury. So, there will be changes, but we will go for the best legs that would give us victory on Friday.”

Super Falcons Captain Onome Ebi has been ruled out by a hamstring injury (biceps femoris muscle tear – Grade 2) and could be out for two months. She suffered the injury in the semi-final battle against Morocco on Monday that the Super Falcons lost in a penalty shootout in Rabat.

Super Falcons forward Rasheedat Ajibade, who has three goals to her name and won the Woman of the Match award in the quarter-final defeat of Cameroon has also been ruled out of Friday’s encounter alongside midfielder Halimatu Ayinde. Both players picked a Red Card in the match against Morocco.

Head Coach of Zambia’s Copper Queens, Bruce Mwape said on Thursday that his girls have put behind them the controversial defeat to South Africa – through an added-time penalty that is still a talking point at these finals.

“We gave our all and created chances but we failed to take them and that was a mistake that we paid dearly for in the end. We have put that behind us and now, we want to win the bronze medals for our people.”

“We have a mountain to surmount, surely, but we are ready and will approach the game like the final match,” defender Ashleigh Plumptre said at Thursday’s pre-match conference.

Mwape will bank on team captain Grace Chanda to inspire the Copper Queens against the Super Falcons. Chanda has been the rallying point of the southern African nation since the beginning of the tournament, in the absence of the talismanic Barbara Banda.

While goalkeeper Hazel Nali (injured against South Africa) is doubtful for Friday’s encounter, Nigeria would again rely on the agility and awareness of goalkeeper Chiamaka Nnadozie, whose string of saves kept the Falcons in the game against Morocco until the penalty shootout. She was highly deserving of her Woman of the Match award in that tie.

With Onome Ebi out, Waldrum could start with the US-based Payne sisters (Toni and Nicole) on either side of the rear wings, with Osinachi Ohale and Plumptre at centreback. Peace Efih, who scored one of the goals in the 4-0 defeat of Burundi in the group stage, could start in the absence of Ayinde, with the effervescent Gift Monday a probable to start in place of the suspended Ajibade at the fore.

The Copper Queens drew 0-0 with Cameroon in their opening match, before 1-0 and 4-1 wins over Tunisia and Togo respectively shot them to the quarter-finals, where they edged Senegal 4-2 after a penalty shootout.

The Super Falcons lost 1-2 to South Africa in their opening game before beating Botswana and Burundi 2-0 and 4-0 respectively, and Cameroon 1-0 in the last eight.

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