Super Falcons coach, Randy Waldrum has explained why star forward Desire Oparanozie is yet to play in the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand despite being one of his self-proclaimed favourite players.
The Wuhan Jianghan University attacker has yet to appear for the Super Falcons in any of the World Cup’s three group-stage matches, with Asisat Oshoala and Ifeoma Onumonu taking turns leading the line for Nigeria.
Despite Nigeria’s surprise progression to the World Cup’s second round, her absence has caused concerns. Speaking to press ahead of the Super Falcons’ vital match against England, Waldrum was questioned if the ex-team captain will play at all in Australia and New Zealand to which he replied, “Well, we hope so.”
He went on to explain the reason for Oparanozie’s absence so far, saying, “We didn’t have much in AFCON because she couldn’t get out of China, now that we’ve had her, she came into camp and she picked up an injury [on] I think the second, maybe the third, day of camp.
“That’s the reason we haven’t seen her. She’s been set back.
“She really only started training before the second match against Australia. I think she just trained a day before, so she really wasn’t ready to help us in Australia, and because of the quick turnaround between Australia and the Ireland match, we only had one really good day of training.”
The American gaffer, however, provided some further insight into Operanozie’s fitness, giving encouraging signs that she could be fit in time for the Super Falcons’ Round of 16 tie against England.
He said, “I know she’s impatient; she wants to be in and she feels ready to be in but this [group stage break] will give us an opportunity to have three or four more days to get a chance to see her and make sure that she is fully ready and fit, so I wouldn’t be surprised if you see her in some shape in the match [against England].”
Nigeria will face England on Monday, August 7th, hoping to progress to the quarterfinals of the World Cup for the first time since the 1999 edition and the first time since the introduction of a Round of 16.