By Amaechi Agbo
Former Oklahoma Cowgirl player, Courtney Dike and Washington Wizards forward, Francisca Ordega are among the nine foreign-based professional players to hit Super Falcons camp ahead of their friendly match against on Friday at Stade MMArena in the city of Le Mans.
The Nigerian Football Federation announced that American-based pair Courtney Dike and Francisca Ordega were the first set of players to arrive at the Mecure Le Mans Centre, along with Guingamp striker Desire Oparanozie.
Six Swedish-based players, captain Rita Chikwelu, Oshinachi Ohale, Ngozi Okobi, Faith Ikidi, Ogonna Chukwudi and Josephine Chukwunonye landed in Paris on Wednesday afternoon and they will be joined by their teammates from Abuja before heading to Le Mans.
Dalian Quanjian F.C star Asisat Oshoala was initially invited for the friendly against France but had to withdraw from the squad to sort out her work permit in China.
As a result of her absence, the Nigerian Federation handed a late invitation to S.B.V. Excelsior striker Sophia Omidiji and she’ll link up with her teammates in Paris as at yesterday.
Brighton & Hove striker, Ini-Abasi Umotong has not yet reported for international duty as at the time of this report.
Nigeria women will take on France for the first time as Thomas Dennerby continues in his quest to build a solid Super Falcons.
The NFF confirmed the arrivals in its official Twitter account saying “Our camp in Le Mans is already bubbling with US based Courtney Dike and Francisca Ordega as early birds and Desire Oparanozie the latest arrival at the Mecure Le Mans Centre ahead of Friday’s friendly with France
“Also at the Hotel Mercure Le Mans camp are US based Courtney Dike, captain Rita Chikwelu and Osinachi Ohale. Our six Sweden-based players – captain Rita Chikwelu, Oshinachi Ohale, Ngozi Okobi, Faith Ikidi, Ogonna Chukwudi and Josephine Chukwunonye just landed in Paris, France. They will be joined by their mates from Abuja before heading to Le Mans today (yesterday).
“Others include Ngozi Okobi, Faith Ikidi, Ogonna Chukwudi and Josephine Chukwunonye. The home based professionals and other invitees are expected to hit France before launch time on Wednesday,” the tweet read.
Reigning African Women Player of the Year, Asisat Oshoala was left out of Nigeria’s squad for the Friday friendly against France because of an issue with her Chinese club where she returned late for pre-season training.
Officials of Dalian Quanjian FC are said to be unhappy with the three-time African footballer of the year winner.
“Asisat Oshoala was in [Nigeria] coach Thomas Dennerby’s plans but her Chinese club was not ready to release her because she overstayed in Nigeria,” a top official of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) said.
In her defence, the former Liverpool and Arsenal striker insisted she is missing the high-profile friendly to sort out her work permit in China.
Oshoala was in the original squad of 23 for the game in Le Mans on 6 April alongside Onome Ebi, Rashidat Ajibade, Alaba Jonathan, Chinwendu Ihezuo and Uchechi Sunday, who have also been omitted.
“Some players had visa and passport problems, another complained that she was unwell,” the NFF official added.
Experienced quartet of Desire Oparanozie, Rita Chikwelu, Francisca Ordega and Ngozi Okobi, who helped the Super Falcons to an eighth Women’s Africa Cup of Nations title in 2016, have been included.
After the friendly against France, focus will switch to securing a qualifying spot at the 2018 Africa Women Cup of Nations in Ghana as they aim to retain their continental title.
The biggest challenge in Ghana will be to seal qualification for the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup in France – in what could be Nigeria’s eighth record appearance at the tournament.
Nigeria are the only African team to have played in all of the Women’s World Cup tournaments since 1991.
However they have failed to translate their continental dominance on the world stage, their best performance coming in USA in 1999 when they reached the quarter-finals.