Pushing for a possible debut at the 2018 World Cup, the Basetsanas of South Africa will be lurking like a bruised lion when they face Falconets in the return leg of the final qualifying encounter on Saturday.
Long time Nigeria-South Africa rivalry will be renewed at the Samuel Ogbemudia Stadium, Benin as both countries will maintain a stern face, with an eye on one of Africa’s dual ticket to the showpiece in France.
The Christopher Danjuma-led side that has not lost a game in France 2018 qualifiers can be viewed as favourites to represent the continent in the mundial, having not missed out since its inception in 2002. As a piece of cake, the West Africans edged out their hosts 2-0 in the first leg at the Peter Mokaba Stadium, Polokwane after missing excellent scoring chances.
Rasheedat Ajibade, Anam Imo and Charity Reuben have been the outstanding performers in front of goal having scored 12 goals between them on the road to France 2018.
The Basetsanas will be wary of the Nigerian frontline especially Ajibade who has raked in eight goals for the falconets, being the second on the log behind Ghana’s Priscillia Adubea with nine goals. The FC Robo captain will be looking to grace the score sheet with more, to emerge top scorer in the qualifiers.
However, the home team intends to put behind their away victory and see Saturday’s game as “final before final,’’ Mansur Abdullahi, assistant coach of the team says.
“We have kept behind us the match against South Africa and it has nothing to do with the match on Saturday, we are just assuming this is our first meeting. This is the final before the finals.
`Nigeria has not lost out in the qualification and our case cannot be different. We are not just looking at qualifications but to break the jinx that Nigeria has never won the under 20 world cup,’’ he said.
Confirming the team’s preparations, Abdullahi said friendly games played against Edo Queens, a clubside in the Nigeria Women Premier League (NWPL) and Super Lions FC would help get the side ready for the match. He said the team would not underrate their visitors, though confident that his side will emerge victorious at the end.
“Every game has its approach. The Maude Khamalo ladies are a good side and we respect them, but we cannot watch them take the ticket from us.
“They lost 0-2 to Burundi, in one of their qualifiers, but we have never lost, and at the Under-20 level, the country has not beaten South Africa 2-0 in their home ground, but we did that.
“ Our efforts for over seven months now cannot go in vain. So, we are ready and God’s willing, the team will make Nigerians happy,’’ Abdullahi added.
Despite the numerous encomiums the Nigerian side seem to have received, South Africa’s Linda Motlhalo and Gabriella Salgado could create a major upset in the home’s’ defence line.
Mothalo has pulled six goals so far with compatriot’s Salgado recording three. The duo who featured in the previous game could be out to steal the only available opportunity.
The Danjuma girls will no doubt have all the support necessary, from fans, the Edo state government and the Nigeria Football Federation whose bigwigs would likely be in attendance.
When center referee, Zambia’s Gladys Lengwe, blast the whistle to open the game, it will be no longer about style, skill or technique, but who wins on aggregate to join either Ghana or Cameroon.
Sports Reporter, News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)