As the Super Falcons gear up for their 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup opener against Canada July 21, there are several players who will be instrumental to their campaign in Australia/New Zealand. PETER AKINBO takes a look at some of the brightest sparks in coach Randy Waldrum’s team

Asisat Oshoala

Undoubtedly the player to watch in the Nigerian side is Oshoala. Currently one of the best forwards in women’s football, Oshoala has been shortlisted for the 2023 FIFA Ballon d’Or (Socrates award). Her incredible record of 83 goals in 89 games at club side Barcelona speaks volumes about her talent. In the 2022-23 season, she outperformed many top players in Europe, scoring 21 non-penalty goals, and found the net in half of her league appearances for Barca.

Oshoala aims to become the first African player to score in three different Women’s World Cup tournaments, having already scored in the 2015 and 2019 editions. With her strength, skill, and leadership qualities, Oshoala is considered one of Africa’s greatest female footballers of all time.

“Personally, I feel like we have a good team and if everything is being done right, we can go very far at the upcoming World Cup,” Oshoala said.

“This is because regardless of whatever, we are still going to go out there fighting, do our job and see what we can achieve.”

Ashleigh Plumptre

The Leicester City Women’s centre-back Plumptre has been gaining recognition in the English Women’s Super League with her fine performances week-in-week-out. Instrumental in helping her club retain their topflight status last season, the 25-year-old defender brings a no-nonsense and energetic style of play to the Nigerian team. With 11 caps already under her belt, she will be a key player for Nigeria’s exploits in the tournament.

The ‘Dancing Oyinbo’ has a composed and calm demeanor, which earned her a place in the squad, and she values the experience gained during the challenging 2022 WAFCON campaign, from where the Falcons qualified for their ninth World Cup.

Rasheedat Ajibade

Known for her skills as an attacking midfielder or deep-lying forward, Ajibade captivates fans with her dazzling footwork and ability to navigate challenging situations on the field. Her unique skill set allows her to showcase flair, creativity and defensive contributions, making her one of the most complete players in Africa.

The Atletico Madrid playmaker can win tackles, make interceptions and orchestrate attacks. Coupled with her unpredictability and versatility, ‘the blue haired girl’ is a player opponents in Australia will be wary of.

Michelle Alozie

Alozie is rated among the most beautiful footballers at the Women’s World Cup. After making her debut for the senior national team in 2021, the 26-year-old has become a regular member of the squad.

Alozie’s versatility allows her to seamlessly slot into various positions, and she has played a more influential role in the 2023 campaign for Houston Dash in the National Women’s Soccer League in America. Her performance as a winger and her ability to score crucial goals highlight her importance in the team.

Uchenna Kanu

Uchenna Kanu’s versatility is a valuable asset for Nigeria as she can play in different positions across the front line. She has showcased her goal-scoring prowess, particularly with her impressive run and well-placed shot against the United States in a friendly match.

Kanu’s improved decision-making and movement, gained from her experience in the Swedish, Mexican and American leagues, make her a consistent markswoman. Coach Waldrum faces a dilemma of whether to unleash her from the start or bring her on as a second-half impact player.

Chiamaka Nnadozie

To make a good team, the team must be good in all the departments. This is the reason why Chimaka has a crucial role to play if the Falcons hope to contend with the biggest women’s teams in the world.

The Paris FC goalkeeper is widely regarded as the best on the continent. Her contributions were vital in helping her club reach the Champions League playoffs in the French Division 1 Feminine.

Notably, Nnadozie made history at the age of 19 by becoming the youngest player to keep a clean sheet at the World Cup, in Nigeria’s 2-0 victory over Korea in 2019. Her exceptional goalkeeping skills and experience will be crucial for Nigeria’s success in the upcoming tournament.

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