Revenge is the one word that may inspire Mali in their opening match of the 10th Women’s Africa Cup of Nations today, as they aspire to conquer one of their biggest nemesis, Nigeria.
But Nigeria’s coach Florence Omagbemi declared at yesterday’s pre-match press conference that they are well aware of their opponent’s capabilities, with their eyes fixed on the prize.
“Just like the others teams are looking to get information about our own team. This is not the first time we’ve been playing the Mali team. We have good information about them and so we are good to go.”
Mali are making their sixth appearance in the biennial competition having gone AWOL since 2010, now they would be hoping to make it out of the group stage for the first time ever.
In their past five appearances from 2002 to 2010, they met Nigeria three times; losing 5-1 in 2002, 3-0 in 2004 and 5-0 in 2010.
However, the torture that is still fresh in their memories will be the Super Falcons hammering them 9-1 on aggregate in last year’s All Africa Games qualifiers.
Everyone understood, when they later withdrew from their two-legged Olympic qualifiers against Nigeria.
Nevertheless, coach Florence Omagbemi, who captained the Super Falcons to four African titles, believes she has the best legs at her disposal to dispatch any team that comes between them and an eighth title.
“My team is 100% percent fit and ready. Everyone on the team – the 21 players we have and officials are ready for the game and we are set to start our campaign,” Omagbemi continued at the pre-match conference.
“For now, we’ve brought the best to represent the country. When you have a tournament two years after and we play in 2016 – there is a transition in the team and as a coach you want to get the best players to represent the country.
Meanwhile, the 41-year-old, whose exploits as a player cannot be forgotten, is relishing the opportunity to lead the Super Falcons as a coach for the first time.
“It is an honour to come back as an ex-player to coach the team. I’m trying to bring some of the experience I had before and the players they understand the task at hand. I’m happy to be the head coach of the team.”