Florence Omagbemi will tomorrow steer Nigeria’s Super Falcons against their Senegalese counterparts in the first leg of the Final Round qualifier for the 10th Africa Women Nations Cup Cameroon 2016.
The match in Dakar would be legend Omagbemi’s first competitive game at the helm of the Super Falcons, a team she once captained gloriously to four continental titles between 1998 and 2004 as well as four FIFA Women’s World Cups in 1991,1995,1999 and 2003; and she notes it would be her “defining moment” for obvious reasons.
“The closest thing on my mind now is our game in Dakar,” Omagbemi told CAFonline.com ahead of her competitive debut as head coach of the reigning African champions.
“We are not looking at them (Senegal) as underdogs. Our business is to go to Dakar and get the result that will boost our chances of qualifying for the Africa Women Cup of Nations in Cameroon. I’m optimistic we shall get the job done,” she added.
The Super Falcons have won the African title a record seven times; 1998, 2000, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2010 and 2014; but Omagbemi said current form than pedigree would be crucial in the first leg clash.
Below are excerpts of the 41-year old’s interview ahead of their trip to Dakar;
You captained the Super Falcons to four African titles. What is the feeling after being named coach?
Absolutely, I’m humbled by this appointment and grateful to God because it is an honour after playing for the team for so many years in the past. I want to thank to the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) for the confidence reposed in me.
What are you bringing on board to make the Super Falcons be as formidable as they were during your playing days?
Currently, we still have good players that can make us proud and I want to believe they still committed. What I need is to add one or two things to keep us going. We want to continue to do better on the continent and improve upon our performance on the world stage. That is my goal.
Has the Super Falcons lost their grip as once the most dreaded side on the continent?
Apparently! Getting to the top and remaining there is never going to be an easy task but from what I have seen so far, the players still have high confidence level. What needs to be done now is changing the approach to coaching. We still have the commanding tone on the continent and just have to improve our performance on the world stage. The players know that they have to increase their confidence level and the coaching crew has started mapping out the strategy for the crucial qualifier against Senegal. Women’s football on the continent has improved greatly and we are conscious of the fact that every team has improved over time. I was at the last FIFA Women’s World Cup in Canada and all three African representatives (Nigeria, Cote d’Ivoire and Cameroon), did well though only Cameroon progressed beyond the group stage. So there has been a marked difference between Nigeria and the rest of Africa as such we must be wary of the Senegalese.
What will be the approach for your debut game?
We are starting with the first leg away in Dakar on Friday, 8 March 2016. It is a crucial match towards qualification for Cameroon 2016. We are taking one game at a time and our target is to get a very good result from the first leg in Dakar. We are expecting a tough contest knowing that every team wants to be in Cameroon. Since we are playing away, we would need to work extra hard and get a good result ahead of the second leg.
How do you rate your chances against Senegal?
(Laughs) There is no walkover in football again. This match is not about top dogs and underdogs. We are not looking at Senegal as underdogs. They will come all out knowing they are playing against one of the best teams on the continent. Our business is to go to Dakar and get the result that will boost our chances of qualifying to Cameroon. At the end of the game on Friday, we are going to know if we are playing an underdog but with the confidence level in our team, we are going to do well in Dakar.
We have a good crop of players both from the domestic league and foreign-based. We are counting on all of them to be at their best if picked for the encounter. I don’t want to start talking about a particular player doing the magic; rather we want to see collective team work from all of them.
What is your coaching philosophy, short and long-term objectives?
I just want to create a positive environment in order for everyone to do well. The short term objective is to qualify for the Africa Women Cup of Nations in Cameroon and retain the trophy we won in 2014. However, one step at a time; we have to qualify first. After that, our long term objective as I said earlier is to ensure that we do better on the world stage.