There seemed a heavy load on Oshoala to almost deliver single-handedly in the opening day defeat to South Africa.
Losing a talented player and talisman like Asisat Oshoala is a heavy burden for any team. Oshoala’s injury just before the final of the UEFA Women’s Champions League final against Lyon was a sore miss and the Falcons will fare no better unless Coach Randy Waldrum can exploit her absence to raise the rest of his players.
There are four aspects of the Falcons’ play that should get an uptick because of the absence of the four-time CAF Women’s player of the year.
In their first match against South Africa, which they justifiably lost, some players who started gave minimal effort. It was either they thought others in the team would carry the team or they were just lackadaisical because they believed that whatever effort they put into the match, they would still get a positive result. That did not happen.
Now, shod of Oshoala, who frightened other countries, more effort would be required of every other player chosen to play, especially in the make or mar clash against Botswana on Thursday.
Being confident may sometimes lapse into arrogance. Yes, the Falcons have won the Nations Cup nine times and have never missed a FIFA World Cup, but they must remember they have missed the Olympic Games.
Nigerian football fans may think their players are better than any other on the continent, but the players must be humble enough to put in the effort to get the job done. That comes from being humble in assessing and juxtaposing ability with effort. The best talents with no effort are just as average as the poor team, who with humility put in the hard yards.
For 90 minutes on Monday, it looked like a stroll for most of the Falcons. Too many misjudged and misplaced passes meant the team looked under-cooked. It looked like the South Africans have a psychological advantage.
The desire to engage and disrupt the flow of the Bayana Bayana was very low, and they played with ease. That must not be the case against a clearly competent Botswana team.
In 82 minutes of action, Oshoala completed six passes and had one combination play in which her shot was blocked. Her average position (image above) showed why the Falcons struggled to create any meaningful chance from midfield. Simply, she was no threat to the South Africans just as her touch map showed.
Without her, the team must become more cohesive and inventive. The likely inclusions of Gift Monday and Francisca Order from the start should lead to greater teamwork and not the dependency on one superstar to pull the chestnut out of the fire.
While Oshoala’s absence could be a major incidence, they can turn it into a positive confluence for their campaign. Some otherwise fringe players will have to take on more responsibility as they try to navigate their way to another title. It will be hard, but not insurmountable.