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Super Falcons up against Steel Roses in Meizhou Wuhua

From: Dianabasi Effiong

African champions Nigeria have an interesting start to their preparations for the 8th FIFA Women’s World Cup finals as they tackle China’s Women National Team, nicknamed Steel Roses, in the Four –Nation China Tournament on Thursday evening.

Korea Republic and Romania, the other participating teams, will clash in the tournament opening match, from 3pm China time (8am Nigeria time), before the Falcons and the Roses take the pitch at Huitang Stadium at 7.35pm China time, which will be 12.35pm in Nigeria.

On Wednesday, between 4pm-5pm China time (9am and 10am in Nigeria), the Falcons took to the Wu Hua Olympic Sports Centre of the Huitang Stadium for their first training session since arriving in China.

Sweden –based defender Faith Michael and midfielder Rita Chikwelu, as well as England -based forward Ini-Abasi Umotong and Portugal –based Chinaza Uchendu flew direct from Europe and joined the team in Meizhou city.

China’s Steel Roses is among the most respected teams in women football globally and will certainly afford the nine –time African champions a good match. On its part, Nigeria’s Super Falcons is one of ONLY seven teams to have qualified for every edition of the FIFA Women’s World Cup finals since the competition was launched in China in 1991. The others are the women national teams of USA, Brazil, Germany, Sweden, Norway and Japan.  

The winner of Thursday’s encounter will clash with the winner of the Korea Republic/Romania fixture in Sunday’s final, slated to kick off at 7.35pm China time (12.35pm Nigeria time). The losers play the third place match starting from 3pm China time (8am Nigeria time) also on Sunday, and at the same Huitang Stadium.

Should the Falcons prevail over the Steel Roses and the Koreans subdue the Romanians, Sunday’s final would be an interesting preview of the FIFA World Cup Group A clash between Nigeria and Korea Republic scheduled for Grenoble on 12th June.  

Aigbogun: We want to be in Poland

Head Coach Paul Aigbogun has declared the readiness of his Nigeria U20 squad to give their very best in all group phase matches at the Africa U20 Cup of Nations in Niger Republic, in order to qualify to represent Africa at the FIFA U20 World Cup slated for Poland mid-year.

“It is a tournament we are going to approach with all seriousness. This team has a huge burden on it because of the previous performances of Nigeria at U20 level. Nigeria has won the competition seven times and anything less than coming home with the trophy would always be seen as failure.

“Playing in the WAFU Cup tournament in Togo gave my players sneak preview of what things would look like in Niger Republic, and we learnt a lot from the defeat to Senegal in the final match.”

Nigeria play host nation Niger Republic, South Africa and Burundi in Group A of the U20 AFCON, with venue based in Niamey. But the Flying Eagles have an interesting tune –up game against their Saudi Arabian counterparts in Jeddah on Tuesday next week.

That encounter comes on 25 days short of 30 years to the day the Flying Eagles edged their Saudi Arabian counterparts 2-1 in the opening match of the 1989 FIFA World Youth Championship (now FIFA U20 World Cup) at the King Fahd International Stadium in Riyadh.

At the eight –team U20 AFCON taking place in Niger Republic, 2nd – 17th February, all four semi finalists will qualify to fly Africa’s flag at the FIFA U20 World Cup in Poland, set for 23rd May – 15th June.

Poland, which co-hosted the 2012 European Championship with Ukraine, will host the 24 –nation finals in the cities of Lublin, Bielsko Biala, Tychy, Bydgoszcz, Gdynia and Lodz. The Draw Ceremony has already been set for 24th February at the Gdynia Sports Arena in the city of Gdynia.