Former captain Desire Oparanozie has been recalled to the Nigeria fold after two-year absence for the Super Falcons’ training camp in Austria this month.
Oparanozie, who was a captain of the West African nation that reached the knockout stages for the first time in 20 years, last played for her country at the Fifa Women’s World Cup finals in June 2019. Personal issues, including her alleged role in the team staging a sit-in protest in Grenoble after a 3-0 Round of 16 loss to Germany in France caused her to fall out of favor with the authorities under coach Thomas Dennerby. However, the return of the 27-year-old striker to the senior women’s national team came on the heels of the pardon from the NFF leadership following her written apology letter to the Nigeria Football Federation. Besides Oparanozie, two other players back in the squad after a two-year out were striker Ini Umotong, who impressed with English Championship side Lewes ladies, and striker Ebere Orji, who has been a standout for Swedish side Sundsvall DFF in recent weeks. Leicester City defender Ashleigh Plumptre, Watford’s Adekite Fatuga-Dada and Swedish born Hackens’ sisters duo of Josphine and Evelyn Ijeh – duaghters of former Nigeria international Peter Ijeh, were foreign-born handed first call-ups. There were midfield, attack and defense places free in the squad because of injuries to Halimatu Ayinde, Patricia George, while SL Benfica’s Christy Ucheibe and Barcelona’s Asisat Oshoala were left out for varying reasons. The Nigerian based delegation on Thursday head out for Vienna, the capital for an 8-day training camp as part of intense preparations for some upcoming challenges, most notably the Aisha Buhari Cup in September. The Super Falcons will square up with Ghana’s Black Queens, Cameroon’s Indomitable Lionesses, Banyana Banyana of South Africa, Morocco and Mali in the six-nation tournament in Lagos.
SUPER FALCONS SQUAD FOR AUSTRIA
Goalkeepers: Tochukwu Oluehi (CD Pozoalbense, Spain); Chiamaka Nnadozie (Paris FC, France); Oyinyechi Okeke (Bayelsa Queens); Yewande Balogun (California Storm, USA)
Defenders: Glory Ogbonna (Edo Queens); Osinachi Ohale (Deportivo Alaves, Spain); Esther Ogbonna (Edo Queens); Chidinma Okeke (Madrid CFF, Spain); Onyinyechi Zogg (FC Zurich, Switzerland); Nicole Payne (West Virginia University, USA); Michelle Alozie (Houston Dash, USA); Ashleigh Plumptre (Leicester City, England); Josephine Ijeh (BK Hacken, Sweden)
Midfielders: Rita Chikwelu (Madrid CFF, Spain); Ngozi Okobi-Okeoghene (Eskilstuna United, Sweden); Toni Payne (Sevilla FC, Spain); Adekite Fatuga-Dada (Watford FC, England)
Forwards: Rasheedat Ajibade (Atletico Madrid, Spain); Francisca Ordega (Levante UD, Spain); Gift Monday (FC Robo Queens); Joy Bokiri (Bayelsa Queens); Uchenna Kanu (Linkopings FC, Sweden); Ebere Orji (Sundsvall
DFF, Sweden); Ini-Abasi Umotong (Lewes FC, England); Evelyn Ijeh (BK Hacken, Sweden); Desire Oparanozie (FC Dijon, France)