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No team can stop Falcons from retaining AWCON title, Omagbemi insists

Super Falcons head coach, Florence Omagbemi, has identified perennial rivals, Ghana and Cameroon as major threats, but insists they cannot stop Nigeria from retaining the African Women Cup of Nations (AWCON) title, ahead of their opening match against Mali on Sunday in Limbe.

Omagbemi, who was the first player to lift the AWCON trophy when Nigeria hosted and won the inaugural edition in 1998 in Abeokuta, believes there is no stopping Nigeria in the Africa’s women biennial tournament which begins in two major cities of Cameroon from 19 November to 3 December.

Nigeria is drawn in Group alongside Ghana, Mali and Kenya, Omagbemi is not oblivious of the challenges ahead but was enthusiastic of becoming the first captain to win the trophy as coach.

“In my playing days, it was never easy games against the Ghanaians though we usually had the upper hands.  Nigeria and Ghana started women’s football at the same time and they have ideas and talents about the women’s game, she told in Cameroon.

“So, the Black Queens and even the Cameroonians would naturally want to pose a challenge, but we are going to take our matches one at a time because there are no smaller teams again in football. We are not under any pressure; we just want to retain our trophy as the defending champions.”

“Though as the defending champions, a lot is expected from us, I don’t see it as a pressure because every team coming to Cameroon would want to have a go at us but we know remaining at the top is never going to be easy,” began the 41-year-old former forward.

“We have communicated that to the team and we want to keep our high standard. We want to retain the trophy because that is the target in Cameroon. We want to respect the other teams because there are no smaller teams again in football but we are not under any pressure. We just want to retain our trophy as the defending champions.”

Speaking further, Omagbemi went on to reveal how she retired playing football to become the coach of the Nigeria’s senior women national team. “I think the talent was there all along with me, but it never manifested until somebody discovered it and pushed you into it,” she said.

“Officially, the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations started in 1998 but I was also part of the team that qualified for the World Cup in 1991 in China as well as the 1995 edition in the USA. Nigeria hosted the first edition of the Women’s AFCON in 1998 and I was opportune to captain the Super Falcons to win the trophy for the first time. I also captained the team to win in 2000 in South Africa and in 2002 in Warri in Nigeria; thereafter we went to the World Cup in the USA.

“Sincerely, I was never looking towards this direction when I was playing but most of the coaches I worked with had always noticed the leadership qualities in me, both at the club and national team levels. So they gave me much responsibility when I’m on the pitch to direct my teammates.

“So, I worked with them not as a coach but as a captain; and since I’ve been playing for the national team, I knew this opportunity will come one day because women’s football had always been my passion.”

Super Falcons have won seven of the last nine editions of the final tournament and Omagbemi led her troops to two other successive victories in 2000 and 2002 to go down in history as one of the most successive captains of a national women’s team on the continent.
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