April 9, 2024

Paris 2024: Super Falcons battle Banyana Banyana to end 16-year Olympic absence

Super Falcons

Super Falcons

By Ayobami Okerinde

The Super Falcons of Nigeria will take on South Africa in the second leg of their Paris 2024 Olympics qualifiers, in a winner-takes-all clash.

Nigeria edged South Africa 1-0 in a keenly contested first-leg encounter last Friday at the MKO Abiola stadium, Abuja, with captain Rasheedat Ajibade scoring from the penalty spot.

Today’s all-important clash could see the Super Falcons end their 16-year wait for an appearance at the Olympic Games. Nigeria’s last appearance was at the 2008 games in Beijing, with the team losing all three games against Brazil, Germany, and North Korea.

Goalkeeper Tochi Oluehi is the only member of the 2008 team still in the current squad.

Tough clash

Speaking ahead of the clash, South Africa’s goalkeeper, Kaylin Swart, stated that the team can pick up the ticket to the games. 

“I think the second leg is going to be tough, but I think the coaches know exactly what’s needed, and as players, we will also look at ourselves, and hopefully we’ll come back with a better individual performance,” she told CAF Online.

“I think if we can start (the second leg) the way we finished the second half (in Abuja), I think there’s so much more to give, but we’re not down yet. I still believe in my girls; I still think that we can turn it around at home, and I just hope that the fans will come out and be behind us because I do think there’s so much more in the second leg, and hopefully we can get the goals we need.”

Super Falcons Rasheedat Ajibade also expects a tough battle with South Africa, expressing optimism that Nigeria can make it to the games in Paris.

She said, “We are not under any illusions. It is going to be a big and tough fight. For us, we have 90 minutes standing between us and the long-elusive ticket to the Olympics, and we will give it our all.

“We want Nigerians to believe in the Super Falcons. The players are motivated by the keen desire to play in the Olympics. Personally, I have played at every tournament you can think of, except the Olympics. The time to do it is now.”

Meanwhile, Banyana Banyana captain Thembi Kgatlana accused Nigeria of deliberately not cutting the grass on the pitch in the first leg, giving them an undue advantage.

“The fact that they didn’t cut the grass and they know that we’re a team that moves the ball,” she told SABC News.

“That’s why I said in an earlier question that when we get home with better facilities, we know that the pitch will favour us, the same way the pitch favoured them.

“They are not a team that plays the ball; they are a team that wants to run behind, and that’s exactly what they do.

“You drop the ball; it doesn’t bounce; it just lands on top, so that’s what they want to do, and I think it worked for them, but we also have an advantage when we go home to play with better facilities.”

Sevilla FC Femenino and Falcons forward Toni Payne stated her ambition to compete in the Olympic Games and expressed strong confidence in the Super Falcons’ ability to achieve success.

“It’s definitely something to keep in mind. Obviously, when you are away, when you have the crowd against you, it’s something difficult. We are ready to turn around the trend. 

“It has been a dream of mine to go to the Olympics, so I’m hoping that we can get the ticket,” she told the Super Falcons media team.

The game will take place at the Loftus Versfeld Stadium in Pretoria and kick off at 6.30 p.m. Nigerian time