After seeing their chances of winning the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations for the 10th time quenched by hosts Morocco, the Super Falcons turn their attention to a third-place finish as they face Zambia for the consolatory bronze medals at the Complex Mohamed V in Casablanca on Friday (today), The PUNCH reports.
The Falcons will hope to make it three out of three when they face the Copper Queens in Casablanca, having dominated their previous meetings, winning 6-0 in their first clash at the 2014 edition, before defeating the Queens 4-0 in Ghana in 2018, on their way to a ninth title.
Heading into this clash, Nigeria are the clear favourites against the Zambians, who made it past the group stages for the first time in three attempts.
This is only the third time, since the women’s tournament began in 1998, that Nigeria would play in a third-place match – winning one and losing the other.
Seeking to reach the final and retain the title they won in Ghana four years ago, the nine-time champions were eliminated by the Atlas Lionesses, who won 5-4 on penalties, after a 1-1 deadlock in regular and extra-time.
Despite being reduced to nine players, following the sending off of Rasheedat Ajibade and Halimatu Ayinde, Falcons held Morocco and forced the game into a penalty shootout.
The duo will be highly missed, especially the Atletico Madrid forward Ajibade, who alongside Morocco’s Ghizlane Chebbak, are the tournament’s top scorer with three goals each.
Their absence will however provide an opportunity for Uchenna Kanu and Gift Monday to fill as they hope to come out victorious against the Zambians.
Also out is captain Onome Ebi, who was knocked out by a hamstring injury – that could require between six weeks to two months to recover – during the gruelling semi-final clash against Morocco on Monday.
Having picked up a World Cup ticket, Randy Waldrum’s side will hope to put their defeat behind them and get the better of Zambia, who lost to South Africa in the other semi-final.
Speaking during a press conference ahead of the game, impressive defender Ashleigh Plumptre admitted that the Falcons had a mountain to climb against the Zambians.
“We have a mountain to surmount, surely, but we are ready and will approach the game like the final match,” defender Ashleigh Plumptre said at Thursday’s pre-match conference.
On his part, head coach Waldrum remains optimistic despite missing three of his key players.
The American said, “We have two players suspended as a result of red cards in the last game, and we also have some players down with an injury. So, there will be changes but we will go for the best legs that would give us victory on Friday.”
The Queens were silenced 1-0 in their last four clash by the Banyana Banyana, with Linda Motlhalo’s last-minute penalty sending them packing.
Both the Falcons and the Queens were the victims of controversial refereeing decisions in their semi-final losses.
While the Falcons were hard done by the two red cards, the Queens saw a late penalty handed to the Banyana and both will target winning the bronze medal in this clash as some consolation.
Speaking ahead of today’s clash, Zambia head coach, Bruce Mwape, said his players had put their semi-final disappointment against South Africa behind them and were aiming to win the third-place game against Nigeria.
“We gave our all and created chances but we failed to take them and that was a mistake that we paid dearly for in the end. We have put that behind us and now, we want to win the bronze medals for our people,” Mwape said.