Super Falcons' embarrassing loss to South Africa highlights Nigeria's waning dominance in Africa

What has gone wrong with the Super Falcons in recent years?

Super Falcons (Instagram/Super Flacons)

Nigeria has won 11 of the 13 Africa Women's Cup of Nations (AWCON) titles, with the first two editions played in a FIFA Women's World Cup qualifiers format.

But unlike the early days of total dominance, the last two title wins were laborious, with a slim 1-0 win over Cameroon in the final of the 2016 edition and a penalty shootout win over South Africa in that of the next tournament in 2018.

That wasn't enough warning bells for the Super Falcons, who have since stalled after AWCON 2018, allowing other countries to catch up.

There have been no signs of progress since Nigeria won that title in Ghana.

Instead, it was an average FIFA Women's World Cup appearance, a managerial change, a failed attempt to qualify for the football event of the Tokyo Olympics and a year without any games.

When the Super Falcons reconverged in February 2021, they were led by American coach Randy Waldrum, but the team has regressed under him.

The team looks disjointed; the passing is horrible, while their ageing best players have failed to spark.

Against South Africa at the Aisha Buhari Cup, the Super Falcons were completely found out, and this could be the start of the end of their dominance in Africa.

Other countries have been working hard in catching up. Cameroon have troubled the Super Falcons in recent years; Cote d'Ivoire stopped Nigeria at the CAF Women's Olympic Qualifying Tournament and now South Africa.

The South African Football Association (SAFA) have been hard at work to make the Banyana Bayana a force to reckon with in Africa, and there have been results.

They beat the Super Falcons at the group stage of the 2018 AWCON and only lost the final via a penalty shootout.

There has been a consistent approach with the Banyana Banyana, especially with Desire Ellis, the manager since 2016.

Under her, the team once ranked 50th in the world, finished second in the 2018 AWCON.

In my conversation with Ellis after the win against Nigeria at the Mobolaji Johnson Arena in Lagos, she purred about the works of the SA football-loving community, the women's soccer league and the SAFA in making the Banyana Banyana what it is today.

Perhaps, it's the same approach the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) have to take with the Super Falcons.

We still don't know why the federation did not continue with Florence Omagbemi, who led the team to the AWCON title in 2016.

Since she left, there have been two coaches; Thomas Dennerby took over in January 2018, led the team to the AWCON title in December of that year and left abruptly after several skirmishes with the NFF.

Waldrum took over in January 2020, but there are questions over the coach's commitment as he continues to combine his work as Head Coach of the Super Falcons with that of the Women's Soccer Team of the University of Pittsburgh.

Many have also spoken about the ageing Super Falcons squad and the need for fresh legs.

In truth, these fresh legs in the squad were the only silver lining from the Super Falcons' disastrous outing at the just concluded Aisha Buhari Cup.

19-year-old Monday Gift came off the bench to score a brace in the 2-0 win over Mali in the first game of the invitational tournament.

Vivian Ikechukwu, another young player, scored the two goals against South Africa as Nigeria failed to battle from a 3-0 deficit.

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