•Falcons captain Ebi confident ahead England clash
Super Falcons captain Onome Ebi is in confident mood ahead of their mouthwatering round of 16 clash against tournament favourites England at the ongoing Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.
Obi, 40, the oldest player at this year’s edition, insists the record African champions are capable of beating any side at the tournament, ahead of Monday’s battle for a quarter-final spot.
The Lionesses have been tipped as overwhelming favourites for the clash despite the Falcons boasting a better head-to-head statistics over their European foes.
It is the fourth time both countries women’s teams will clash. They had met at the group stage of the 1995 edition in Kastad, Sweden, with the English edging the former African champions 3-2.
But in the subsequent two matches in England, Nigeria won both. First in a July 2002 friendly match, a Patience Avre goal gave Nigeria a 1-0 win in Norwich. When they met again in England at Reading, the Falcons had a more comprehensive 3-0 win.
“We have started the race, we’ve passed the group stage, so every other thing in our head is winning because if you don’t win any game henceforth you are out, no second chance. So, we are giving it all to progress. We are not here to see how Australia looks. We have a 100 per cent chance to play against any team. We are going all out and our mentality is about winning,” Ebi told PUNCH Sports Extra.
“Before we even came here, we didn’t see anyone threatening us. Having played against Canada, the Olympic champions; co-hosts Australia and even Ireland and passing through that stage, I don’t think there is any team we are scared of playing against. The mindset we had that qualified us for the round of 16 is the same mindset we are using to play any other team, we don’t even care who they are.”
The centre-back added that the lack of trust in the team’s ability to hold their own against the big sides had been their motivation Down Under.
“One thing about this World Cup and the Super Falcons is that people don’t believe in us. They thought we couldn’t make it past the group stage. We were written off, like we were just coming to participate. We were in a tough group and no team was a pushover, but they didn’t even expect us to beat any team in the group stage,” Ebi added.
“That’s actually a motivation for us because we know what the World Cup is and what is at stake. Knowing people don’t believe in us is a motivation and personally I see negative comments as motivation to go further. So, it’s like a blessing for us that nobody believed in us. That is what is working for us.”
Despite a below par performance at last year’s WAFCON, where they ended in fourth place and were beaten by the three other African countries at the ongoing World Cup — Zambia, South Africa and Morocco — Ebi believes coach Randy Waldrum’s side is made up of a perfect blend of your and experience.
“Like I always say, this year’s World Cup, we have a mix of quality players. We have young players, experienced players, fast players, name them. Like we have all it takes to go far in this competition and I have this huge confidence in me before even coming here. So, I believe with the calibre of players we have, I think we can play any team. Like we are really prepared and we will be happy at the end.”
This is Ebi’s sixth World Cup, the only African, man or woman, to achieve the feat, but Captain Fantastic places the squad ahead of personal achievements.
“I feel great, I feel happy, I feel fulfilled because this is what we have been working towards for a very long time since we qualified and our goal is to surpass our previous record,” she stated.
“We are not there yet, but I’m grateful to God that we are able to get to this stage and we keep working to go further because we are yet to get to our goal. So, we keep working hard to reach it and I know with hard work and unity in the team, we can achieve that.