It’s a titanic clash between the red tide of home team Morocco and the green brick wall of the mighty Nigeria.
The Moulay Abdellah Sports Complex is set to be an absolute cauldron for the mouthwatering semifinal of the 2022 TotalEnergies WAFCON.
Host country Morocco enters new territory when it plays its first-ever semifinal in just the country’s third participation in the tournament.
Up against them, though, will come the Super Falcons, title holders and perennial nine-time winners of the competition.
Despite the gulf in pedigree and experience, the coach of the Atlas Lionesses, Reynald Pedros, is confident his team can hold its own and is up for the challenge.
‘We are preparing this match like all the others, with a lot of seriousness and application. The main thing was to recover well after the quarterfinal, recharge the batteries and not to put negative pressure on the players,” Pedros said in his pre-match press conference.
“Nigeria is the best team in Africa, that regularly participates in the World Cup. It is the country that has the most WAFCON titles. We know who we are dealing with. But in a one-off match, in a semifinal, anything is possible. It’s up to us to put all the ingredients together to win this match and reach the final. We know it will be difficult, but we are ready for it. We don’t go into the unknown, we know how Nigeria plays. it will be up to us to show that we are able to compete and qualify for the final,” Pedros added.
Morocco defender, Nesryn El Chad, is equally upbeat.
“The atmosphere has not changed at all since the beginning of the tournament, it is always the same. We are a family and we are very happy to be together. And what could be better than playing a WAFCON with your family? Yes, there was a lot of euphoria after qualifying for the World Cup, but the most important thing now is the semifinal. We always work with a lot of seriousness and in a good mood,” says El Chad.
“We will have to be rigorous and solid defensively if we want to qualify for the final, no matter who the opponent is in front of us. We must remain strong and organised at the back … We are ready on all levels, physically, technically and tactically,” says El Chad.
The defender teased that the Moroccans believed the Nigerians were able to build their formidable reputation “because we were not yet in the competition,” adding that they would do everything they could to reach the final.
— NGSuper_Falcons (@NGSuper_Falcons) July 17, 2022
On paper, Nigeria is the overwhelming favourite, given their track record and experience.
The two teams have only met twice before and both times (in the 1998 and 2000 WAFCON group stage) the Super Falcons thrashed Morocco (8-0 and 6-0).
But this is a quality Morocco side, who will be considerably lifted by the 50 000 expected at the Moulay Abdellah Stadium.
Nigeria coach Randy Waldrum said in his pre-match press conference that all their players were happy with having achieved the objective of World Cup qualification and were well rested and prepared for the semifinal.
Waldrum knows his team is in for a very tough evening in Rabat.
“I saw them for the first time in September and I was very impressed by the quality of their team and by the football they play. I said as soon as I arrived in Morocco that they are the team that can surprise. I know how this team has developed for three years now. They are one of the best teams in the competition and are capable of beating any other team. We have respect for Morocco and the way they have played in this tournament. It’s a big challenge for us. Certainly, we have a lot of experience and a lot see us as favourites, but in football everything is possible and we have to be ready for this game,” said Waldrum.
Super Falcons midfielder Ngozi Okobi said: “No matter who we face, whether it’s the host country or whatever, it’s football… we have to be ready to win and qualify for the final.”
This clash has all the ingredients of the old hands and masters up against a hungry new team eager to create their own history in front of their fanatical home fans.
It is going to be a game not to be missed. Kick off is at 21h00 local time at the Moulay Abdellah Sports Complex.