Nigeria's Super Falcons aim to break new ground

Samm Audu

ABUJA (AFP) - After winning nine of the eleven African championships so far, been to every World Cup since 1991, Nigeria are finally hoping to bring the World Cup trophy to Africa for the first time.

The reigning African champions' best performance in their six previous appearances at the global tournament was achieved at the 1999 edition, when they reached the quarter-finals.

The team, trained by local coach Edwin Okon from the country's dominant Rivers Angels, have prepared in Toronto for two weeks before the start of the tournament on June 6.

They have been promised a hefty bonus of $400,000 (363,000 euros) if they reach the final.

Last year, the Nigeria women's team -- better known as the Super Falcons -- kept their record of appearing at every women's World Cup by winning a ninth African Women's Championship in Namibia.

The Falcons have dominated the African scene but besides reaching the last eight of the World Cup in 1999, they have failed to go past the group stage of the competition.

The Nigerian women hope they get past a tough first round group in Canada that includes two-time winners the United States, Sweden and Australia.

"I am confident that we will do well at the World Cup," said goalkeeper Precious Dede.

"We have a collection of young players who are doing very well presently and with experience from some of us, I am sure we can surpass our previous outings by doing even better at this World Cup."

The current team are a blend of young and exciting talent like Asisat Oshoala, Desire Oparanozie, Francisca Ordega alongside experienced campaigners such as Dede, Perpetua Nkwocha, Onome Ebi and Stella Mbachu.

Oshoala, who plays for English club Liverpool, is the Falcons' main star after she established herself at full international level when she was named the best player at the African Women's Championship.

This was just months after the 20-year-old versatile player emerged as the top scorer of the 2014 FIFA under-20 Women's World Cup in Canada as the Falconets reached a second straight final.

Oshoala -- the reigning CAF African Women's Player of the Year -- said she was confident the Falcons will soar to new heights in Canada.

"We can't go to the World Cup to merely add to the numbers but we're going there to participate and to prove a point," said the versatile Oshoala, who can play in defence, midfield or attack.

"I can't say right away how far we'll go at the World Cup but I'm positive we won't disappoint Nigerians when the hostilities start in Canada.

"We have quality and experienced players who can turn things around."