Nigeria’s new sports minister, Sunday Akinlabi Dare has urged the female national team, Super Falcons to step up their efforts, in order to ensure they qualify for next year’s women soccer event at next year’s Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan.
Dare, who was a special guest during the Falcons’ second leg match against Algeria in the Tokyo 2020 qualifiers at Agege Stadium, Lagos on Tuesday, charge the players to keep their feet on the pedal, in order to scale the hurdle against Cote d’Ivoire in their last match of the series.
The former gubernatorial aspirant in Oyo State admitted he was glad to get a positive first time experience of watching the Falcons live, since resumption at his new post, saying he was happy to see the nine time African champions pip Algeria 1-0.
Dare, who was at Agege Stadium with women affairs minister, Dame Pauline Tallen, and the acting president of Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), Barrister Seyi Akinwunmi, added that his tenure in the sports ministry will be one devoted to making players happy with adequate welfare packages and trying to ensure all teams get adequate preparations..
Though the minister was beaming with delight, may observes and fans were not so pleased, as the Falcons were not convincing, and only managed to secure the win courtesy of a 57th minute strike off a solo run by captain on the evening, Asisat Oshoala.
Oshoala’s lone goal at ‘The Temple of Soccer’ means the Algerians lost 3-0 aggregate and Nigeria progress to the second round of the Tokyo 2020 race, in which they will next play Cote d’Ivoire, who dumped Mali out on the same day.
In the course of Nigeria’s victory, there were a number of misses from the Falcons, with Amarachi Okoronkwo heaving her shot a little too high in the 6th minute, before goalkeeper Kahina Takenint, who impressed on the evening, saved from Oshoala.
A minute later, Takenint saved as Rasheedat Ajibade curled a smart one from a tight angle. On the quarter hour, Oshoala dashed down the right and sent in a grounder, but the ball went begging for connection.
Six minutes from recess, Yasmine Benlazar headed over the bar as the Algerians threatened and they looked even more fearsome in the second half, as the visitors improved, with Lina Khelif, Horiya Affak, Benlazar, Megane Belkhiter, Mounia Houheche and Lyidia Belkacemi all looking quite impressive.
They showed good promise with their ball sense, positioning, ball distribution and anticipation, cutting off the Falcons from doing damage, and looking anything but a team that the Falcons had beaten 2-0 in Blida six days earlier.
It took a strong solo run and finish from Oshoala, after all-action China-based winger, Francisca Ordega intercepted the ball at the halfway mark in the 57th minute, for the Falcons to break the deadlock, as they sealed the day’s only goal.
Ngozi Okobi impressed in the middle with clever touches and silky passes, and Oshoala’s teasing crosses kissed the crossbar a couple of times, but Nigeria would not add to the score.
After the game, Dare congratulated the Falcons and charged them to continue winning all their matches in the race to next year’s Tokyo 2020 Olympics, so they will be one of the teams that will fly Africa’s flag at the women’s football tournament.
Dare also assured that his tenure will focus on a template of providing best training facilities for men and women football players to excel, while also promising to cater for their welfare and work harmoniously with Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) to guarantee adequate preparations for the country’s teams before international matches and championships.