Sports Gazette

by sports journalism students at St Mary's University, London

WAFCON 2022: Nigeria vs Botswana preview

Posted on 7 July 2022 by Alasdair Howorth
Image Courtesy of CAF Media

Nigeria are looking to bounce back from their opening day loss to South African against a Botswana side who currently top the group following their victory over Burundi.

Nigeria missing Oshoala looking to bounce back

The news broke yesterday from the Nigeria camp that forward and talisman Asisat Oshoala will be unavailable for the remainder of the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations following an injury she sustained in the loss to South Africa.

The Nigerian Football Federation declared that she had sustained a Grade 2 Medial Collateral Ligament strain. Despite picking up the injury within the first ten minutes of the match, she continued to play until the 82nd minute when she could no longer continue.

It is a devastating blow for the Super Falcons. Not only is Oshoala the biggest name in African women’s football, but she has been integral to all of Nigeria’s success over the last eight years. She was player of the tournament in 2014, and top goal scorer in 2016 and came into the this year’s tournament off the back of being the top goal scorer in La Liga Feminine with Barcelona.

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Nigeria should have the depth to cope with the loss. Ifeoma Onumonu started as part of the front three against South Africa and will likely play through the middle with the experienced Francisca Ordega likely to come in for Oshoala.

Beyond that, Vivien Ikechukwu is a goal threat and the Super Falcons also have in the wings Gift Monday. The youngster is one of two players in the squad who plays in Nigeria, but she is one of the most highly rated youngesters coming into the tournament and is an excellent option off the bench.

Randy Waldrum’s side will have to bounce back from the double disappointment quickly as they need to beat Botswana in order to come second in the group C.

Botswana flying high

Standing in Nigeria’s way is a Botswana side that are in high spirits following their thrilling win against Burundi in their first ever match at the WAFCON. The Mares put four past the Swallows in a devastating attacking display.

Gaoletlhoo Nkutlwisang’s side are now in a strong position to qualify out of the group in their first ever attempt, but a positive result against the Super Falcons would effectively seal their progress through to the knock outs.

Image courtesy of CAF Media.

They are unlikely to play with the same attacking fervour that created four goals but allowed for the Burundians to score two against the Super Falcons. They played with a front four that were dynamic and efficient against the Swallows. Refilwe Tholakele in particular impressing with two goals and an assist.

But with the pressure entirely on their opponents, Botswana will fancy themselves to defend deep and hurt Nigeria on the break.

What they said

Nigeria head coach Randy Waldrum:

“I’m not concerned with what the people at home are saying. We know what our plan is and we know why we select the players that we select. We’ll continue to do with what’s best for the team to get a result. That selection was the selection that we felt was the right selection for the game. I don’t put any weight into what people at home are saying.”

Botswana head coach Gaoletlhoo Nkutlwisang:

“We have seen their [Nigeria] strengths. Also we have seen their weaknesses. We are going to focus on our strengths.”

Botswana forward Nondi Mahlasela:

“We went to the game prepared and in mind we wanted to put good football in front of other people watching us.”