Randy Waldrum says Nigeria will be ‘prepared to win’ all its group stage matches at the upcoming TotalEnergies Women’s Africa Cup of Nations.
The draw for the 2022 WAFCON group stage took place in Rabat on Friday night, with the Super Falcons renewing their rivalry with South Africa, having been drawn together in Group C alongside Botswana and Burundi.
The Nigerians suffered a 1-0 defeat to Banyana Banyana at the group stage but bounce back to win the WAFCON for the ninth time in their history in 2018.
Despite bowing to South Africa in the Aisha Buhari Cup final last September, Waldrum will hope his side can go all the way again this time around, and he is looking forward to coming up against three teams with very distinctive qualities.
“Draws are always interesting and unpredictable. So we will focus on preparing for them all,” Waldrum told CAFOnline.com after the draw.
“With this particular draw, our approach will be that of respecting our opponents and understanding that any opponent can win if we aren’t prepared to play.”
The defending champions subdued West African giants Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire 2-1 and 3-0 on aggregate respectively to qualify for the finals and keep alive their dream of a record 10th and fourth consecutive African crown.
While showing empathy to the Ghanaians and Ivorians, the American tactician admitted the qualification dates with the two teams offered good preparation for team ahead of the new 12-nation continental showpiece.
“It was unfortunate the way teams were matched up prior to WAFCON. Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire both are worthy of being in the World Cup. Seems to me, CAF would want it’s best teams representing Africa,” the 64-year-old sympathised.
“Having said that, those games certainly helps our players in knowing what we are capable of, and re-emphasizing the strength of our team and the possibilities ahead.”
The nine-time African champions began their preparations with a doubleheader against reigning Olympic winners Canada in April, with the Falcons suffering a 2-0 first leg loss before twice surrending the lead to draw 2-2 in the second tie.
Waldrum’s side is looking a different set up from the team that lost to South Africa at the 2021 ABC tournament but he will be eager to face the 2018 finalists as he knows his side will enter the opening tie with a point to prove.
“We respect South Africa but we also know the situation the last time we played them.” said the former Trinidad and Tobago coach.
“We will be ready and prepared to win just as we will be with all the teams in our group. Playing teams like the Olympic gold medalists Canada and playing well shows us the heights we are capable of achieving.
“We must remain focused and continue improving in some areas in order to become a world power which we are capable of achieving.”
The first priority is obviously to qualify for the FIFA Women’s World Cup. That has always been the objective for us.Randy Waldrum
Nigeria won the a third in a row and record ninth title in Ghana 2018 and Waldrum will aim to guide the country to another title and a ninth berth to the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup to be co-hosted by Australia and New Zealand.
“The first priority is obviously to qualify for the FIFA Women’s World Cup. That has always been the objective for us.” he added.
“This means we must have success in the group stage. We always want and expect to win whenever we step on the field, so our goal also will be to win the women’s AFCON.”
Nigeria will open their campaign against South Africa on July 4 at Prince Heritier Moulay El Hassan Stadium in Rabat and take on Botswana three days later. They will then wrap up the group phase against debutants Burundi on July 10.
Frederick Marfo is a sportswriter and social worker well known for his advocacy for equal chances and rights for all athletes, especially those with disabilities.