Tue. May 28th, 2024

Nigeria boss Randy Waldrum has warned his side must prepare professionally to be able to challenge for a medal at the 2024 Olympic Games women’s football tournament.

The Super Falcons and Zambia booked their places in Paris as African qualifying culminated on Tuesday.

Nigeria, ranked 36th in the world, will return to the Olympics for the first time since 2008.

“Now my plea and challenge is to the Minister of Sport and to the federation – to help us prepare properly,” Waldrum said.

The West Africans qualified after securing a goalless draw away against South Africa in Pretoria, progressing 1-0 on aggregate thanks to Rasheedat Ajibade’s winner in the first leg.

The Super Falcons will face World Cup holders Spain, former world champions Japan and Brazil in Group C in Paris.

“We need a camp in Europe to prepare for the group that we have – we need proper training, we need proper transportation,” Waldrum, 67, added.

“We need to do things right because these women deserve this opportunity to represent our country of Nigeria in the best possible way.”

Eleven-time continental champions Nigeria will be making their fourth appearance at the Olympics, with their best previous result a quarter-final exit in Athens in 2004.

The Super Falcons reached the last 16 at the Women’s World Cup last year, losing to eventual runners-up England on penalties.

“With this field being small in the Olympics, every team is a top team,” American Waldrum added.

“And if you look at our group, again – like the World Cup – it’s the group of death, so to speak.

“Sixteen years without qualifying is a long time and I am extremely proud of the girls. There is work to be done when it comes to our attack, and we will improve before heading to France.”

Meanwhile, Zambia overturned a first-leg deficit in Morocco to secure back-to-back qualifications for the Olympics.

Trailing 2-1 on aggregate, captain Barbra Banda levelled the tie in the 38th minute to send the match at the Moulay Hassan Stadium in Rabat to extra time.

And the Orlando Pride striker netted the winner from the penalty spot in the 105th minute to give the Copper Queens a 3-2 win overall.

The Zambians, ranked 65th in the world, will be in a tough Group B in Paris along with four-time Olympic champions the United States, 2016 winners Germany and World Cup semi-finalists Australia.

Zambia suffered a group-stage exit at the 2020 Games in Tokyo, although Banda became the first woman to score successive hat-tricks at a single Olympics.

The women’s football tournament at the 2024 Olympic Games begins on 25 July, a day before the opening ceremony in Paris, with the final on 10 August.

By Joy

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