Nigerian coach Edwin Okon is confident his team can spring an upset at next year’s International Soccer Federation (FIFA) Women’s World Cup in Canada.
The African champions are in the same group with two-time World Cup champions the United States and fifth-ranked Sweden, who conceded just one goal in their 10 qualifying matches, and Australia.
“We qualified as African champions and that should worry the other teams in our group,” said Okon. “We have a young squad with a strong mentality and our opponents definitely respect us because we are not under pressure. Our ambition is to surpass the quarter-final stage of 1999 and my players are well aware that the pressure is on the supposed big teams to deliver. Our squad is very strong and boasts players who have played on a big stage. They fight for a common cause and I think this mentality is important to us.”
Nigeria is the only African team to have played in all of the World Cups since 1991. The furthest they have reached is the quarter-final stage in 1999.
“If we play our game, stay focused and with God on our side, we will shock the world,” said Okon, who was appointed the senior team coach after leading the Nigeria’s Under-21 side to a fourth-place finish at the junior World Cup in Japan two years ago.
Nigeria qualified for next year’s senior World Cup after shutting our Cameroon 2-0 in the African Women’s championship last October to clinch its record seventh regional crown.
Meanwhile, three members of the Zambian squad preparing for next year’s Africa Cup of Nations tournament in Equatorial Guinea were injured in a road accident last Sunday. They were in a minibus that collided with another vehicle in Kabwe, which is about 140 kilometres from Lusaka, the country’s capital.
Defender Nyambe Mulenga suffered a broken leg that will most likely rule him out of the tournament while midfielder Changwe Kalale and goalkeeper Satchmo Chakawa suffered minor injuries.
The players were travelling to Lusaka for a national team camp ahead of the Africa Cup of Nations competition that starts on January 17.
Zambia is in Group “B” with the Democratic People’s Republic of Congo, Cape Verde and Tunisia.