Hosts Morocco face their biggest test at the ongoing Total Energies Women’s Africa Cup of Nations when they take on the reigning African champions Nigeria tonight for a place in the coveted final.
The Atlas Lionesses have won all their four games at the continental tournament so far but against the Super Falcons, they face a very experienced team that knows a thing or two about reaching the final.
Monday’s clash is a record 12th time Nigeria will be featuring in the semifinals of the WAFCON and they have won nine times falling short only in 2008 and 2012. The big question is – can Morocco stop the Super Falcons?
Sonia Ngozi Okobi-Okeoghene, the 28-year old experienced shining light in Nigeria’s midfield said the Super Falcons would not be overawed by the fanatical support the hosts are sure to receive tonight,
“We have played against teams playing at home and we know how to manage games like this. We do not care about how many people are in the stadium. We shall come into this game with the sole purpose of winning and going to the final.”
Nigeria defeated Cameroon 1-0 in the 2016 final in front of over 42,000 fans inside the Ahmadu Ahidjo Stadium and according to Ngozi, that experience will come in handy. The Sweden-based midfield genius is hoping to play in her fifth WAFCON final, but Morocco stands in their way.
Reynald Pedros’ Moroccan side have grown from strength to strength in the tournament defeating debutants Burkina Faso and Botswana as well as Uganda and Senegal.However, taking on the record nine-time champions Nigeria poses an even bigger test for Morocco – miles away from facing Uganda who returned for the first time since 2000 and Senegal who last competed at the WAFCON in 2012.
Despite the gulf in pedigree and experience, the coach of the Atlas Lionesses, Reynald Pedros, is confident his team can hold its own and is up for the challenge.
‘We are preparing this match like all the others, with a lot of seriousness and application. The main thing was to recover well after the quarter-final, recharge the batteries and not to put negative pressure on the players,” Pedros said in his pre-match press conference.
On paper, Nigeria is the overwhelming favourite, given their track record and experience.
The two teams have only met twice before and both times (in the 1998 and 2000 WAFCON group stage) the Super Falcons thrashed Morocco (8-0 and 6-0).
But this is a quality Morocco side, that would be considerably lifted by over 50, 000 fans expected at the Moulay Abdellah Stadium.
Super Falcons set to feast on Lionesses