It shouldn’t be particularly surprising that Nigeria slumped to a 3-0 loss to Norway at the Stade Auguste-Delaune on Saturday night.
The Super Falcons were second best in the Group A game in Reims. It was their 17th defeat at the FIFA Women’s World Cup finals.
Guro Reiten put Norway in front after 17 minutes. Her effort took a deflection off the arm of Onome Ebi and went past goalkeeper Tochukwu Oluehi.
The Scandinavians were two goals up in the 33rd minute. A defence splitting pass set up Lisa Marie Utland and she blasted it beyond Oluehi.
Norway wanted another goal and they got it eight minutes before half time Ohale Osinachi diverted the ball home for an own goal.
But where did it go wrong? And what can we gain from the match which put a severe dent in Super Falcons second round hopes and gave Norway renewed hope of finishing in top two.
1. Francisca Ordega was sparkling
Ordega’s proved she is mature well beyond her years. Her range of range of passing, dribbles and crosses were spot on. She was a threat on goal from anywhere inside 30 yards; and she’s increasingly aware of tracking and handing off runners at all levels. She was tireless and enterprising. The former Falconets winger was Falcons’ best player on the night.
2. The #DennerbyOut Brigade Has a Point
While the way they go about their business may be incredibly embarrassing for most Falcons fans, those asking for the Swedish man’s sacking certainly have a point.
It doesn’t look as if Nigeria will be able to win any game in France. It might be best for Dennerby to call it a day.
3. Thomas Dennerby got it wrong, kind of
Dennerby went with a comparable set-up to the one he tried against lowly Pomurje: a back-four-based shape with a central midfield trio of Halimatu Ayinde, Rita Chikwelu and Ngozi Okobi. It did not work. Not only did it isolate Desire Oparanozie and Asisat Oshoala, with little attacking foundation provided to them, but it also left an already shaky back four completely unprotected.
Dennerby realised that he got it wrong. And he realised quick. A change in shape, and instant improvement. Suddenly, the Falcons were playing as they have in the past.
He did get his team selection wrong, and he should not escape criticism for that. But I do not believe that he was the main reason for the defeat. That squarely sits at the doorstep of the defence. So yes, Dennerby got it wrong, but had it not been for some shocking individual errors, he would have rescued his team.
4. Rash defending an issue again
Falcons have a series of rash defenders. Onome Ebi, Faith Michael, a younger Osinachi Ohale, though she has matured over the years. And now you can add another to the list: Chidinma Okeke.
Only Ebere Ngozi gave a good account of herself. The rest were in no man’s land.
Aggressive, front-footed defending is a terrific asset for centre-halves. But it must be curtailed and controlled, and largely at the Falcons, it is a trait that is allowed to run wild. Ohale is the most obvious and egregious example of suffering from this characteristic. But Ebi showed signs of it here.
Ebi’s over-eagerness getting the better of her. It is not the first time, either for her or many of her teammates.
This is more than just individuals making mistakes. Mistakes happen. But there are lessons to be learned from these errors.
5. An awful first half
The Falcons have played worse 45 minutes than the first half. But rarely have they done so when presented with a beautiful opportunity to thrust themselves in the main stream.
South Korea were humped by France, 4-0, on Friday.
And yet, with this rare chance afforded to them to win, they proceeded to put together one of the most lackadaisical, disinterested, lapse performances in recent times. No intensity. No desire. No speed or tempo. It was embarrassing. And just when they needed it most.
6. Qualification for round of 16 is still on the cards
This was an incredible opportunity, one that is extremely frustrating to see slip through Nigeria’s fingers. But it does not mean that their hopes of qualifying for the next round is extinguished.
Falcons can still win one of their remaining matches. If they do that, I believe that they will be in the second round by the end of the round 24. Whether they do do that is another question. There is still a long way to go.
It was not the start the Super Falcons wanted. While they didn’t pick up points, there were some positive signs in the second half after Thomas Dennerby made half time tactical changes. Containing the scoreline to 3-0 was crucial for their chances in the next match. There is all to play for against Soutb Korea in Grenoble.