Super Falcons forward Asissat Oshoala has blamed the unavailability of quality players for the disappointment of missing next year’s Olympic Games.
The FC Barcelona player stated that Nigeria did not play with the best team in the Tokyo 2020 Caf Women’s Olympic Games Qualifiers, following a third successive botched campaign in October.
The African champions made an exciting start to the year with a third-place finish at the Chinese Invitational in January, before an enterprising debut at the Cyprus Women’s Cup a month later.
The Super Falcons earned a fourth-ever win with Oshoala’s winner helping them earn a 2-1 win over South Korea at the World Cup in France as they progressed to the knockout stage for the first time in 20 years.
However, first-team players like Desire Oparanozie, Rita Chikwelu, Halimatu Ayinde and Onome Ebi were left out of the country’s Olympic Qualifying series for administrative reasons but desspite edging past Algeria, they later bowed out against Cote d’Ivoire, and the striker feels the absence of some experienced players ruined their dreams for next year’s Olympic Games.
“In the Olympic Qualifiers, we did our best to qualify but obviously, we didn’t have our best team,” Oshoala told Goal.
“Our best team didn’t play the qualifying games. I was there and we missed a lot of players from the Women’s World Cup who didn’t feature in the Olympic qualifying matches.I think that If we are going to be building a team and really wanted to go to the Olympics, the players that we had were not experienced enough.
“There were a lot of young players, maybe they were trying to build the team but it thinks experience counts a lot in games that involve two legs and then it’s a knockout. A lot of experienced players were not part of the team and it actually added to the reason why we didn’t qualify.
“We also had a lot of younger players coming into the team and the coach trying to build around them. We were so unlucky not to qualify.”
Oshoala featured in the second leg against Algeria and scored Nigeria’s only goal at the Agege Stadium to help the country advance to the third round of the qualifying series 3-0 on aggregate.
Despite scoring against Cote d’Ivoire in Lagos, her lone second-half strike was not enough as the Super Falcons were held to a 1-1 draw before eventually being eliminated on the away goals rule.
The former Arsenal striker insists the country would have ended their wait for a spot at the international showpiece since 2008 if their strongest team was available.
“On 100 per cent, I believe we would have qualify with the team we had at the World Cup. With the way the team lost against Germany, we wanted to get back to the world stage again,” she continued.
“We wanted to give 100 per cent and wanted an opportunity to showcase ourselves again but not all the girls were on the list to come for the game and it was a bit difficult outing for us. If we have had the same roaster from the World Cup for the qualifiers, I can say we have a 90 per cent chance to qualify. I don’t know why the roaster changed, although we had different coaches.
“But when a new coach comes in, we all have a different set of players. As a player, I do not know what really happened but I only saw a changed roster filled with a lot of young players.”
The Barcelona star made history as she became the first African to play and score in the Uefa Women’s Champions League final, scoring Barcelona’s consolation in a 4-1 loss against Lyon. The Nigeria international is also in the race for a fourth African Women’s Footballer of the Year prize but will hope her country’s Olympic exit would not cost her.
By: Hanifat Mustapha