American coach Randy Waldrum began his management of Nigeria’s senior women’s national football team, the Super Falcons of Nigeria, with a slim victory over Russian women’s club ZFK CSKA Moscow of the Russian Women’s Football Championship, the top division of women football in Russia and 2019 winners of the division.
ZFK CSKA were invited to join other country teams as a last-minute replacement for the female team of the southern African country Zambia, who pulled their ladies out of the Turkish tournament, leaving the organisers in a rush to fill the empty slot in time for the opening matches.
The win was a delightful start of the Super Falcons’ four-nation tournament in Antalya, a Turkish resort city where the ladies are competing in the fifth edition of the Gold City Tournament against these Russians, Equatorial Guinea’s Nzalang Femenino and Uzbekistan’s female football team in the same pool.
Nigeria’s lone goal, from the boots of striker Chiwendu Ihezuo who plays for the Zhengzhou-based Henan Jianye W.F.C. in the Chinese Super League, was enough for the ladies to secure full points from the match and place the Super Falcons in good stead for progress.
The creative abilities of Shanghai Shenhua’s Francisca “Franny” Ordega was at play to provide the assist for the goal as she broke loose down the right flank before delivering a low properly-weighted cross to the path of Ihezuo who prodded it into the opponent’s net at the near post.
That was the kind of start Waldrum could have prayed for as he debuted in the dugout in the Super Falcons technical bench since his appointment in October of last year. One of the changes he made was the inclusion of Antionette “Toni” Oyedupe Payne in the squad.
The player, who had previously featured at an under-age level for the United States, narrowly missed out playing for Nigeria at the 2019 World Cup. She currently plays in the Spanish league as number 11 for Sevilla FC Femenino.
Waldrum had squad issues to deal with ahead of his debut as four players pulled out of the initial squad sheet after it was released to the public for the Turkish Women’s Cup. They included Atletico Madrid striker Rasheedat Ajibade, Paris FC goalkeeper Chiamaka Nnadozie, SL Benfica midfielder Christy Ucheibe and Eskilstuna United midfielder Ngozi Okobi-Okeoghene.
While administrative roadblocks kept Ajibade and Ucheibe’s out, health considerations exempted the pair of Okobi-Okeoghene and Nnadozie.
The victorious Super Falcons, who are 11-time African women champions, will next go against the ladies from Uzbekistan in the Turkish women’s cup before their final pool game against another African female team, the Nzalang Femenino of Equatorial Guinea.