Can Mali withstand Africa’s most potent strike-force?

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By Lexi Elo

The arrival of Desire Oparanozie in camp on means the Super Falcons of Nigeria will be able to face the Senior National Team of Mali the most potent strike-force in African football, when both teams face off on this week in Abuja for a place at the ’s Football Tournament of this year’s All-Africa Games.

Reigning African champions Nigeria won gold medal at the ’s Football Tournament of both the 2003 All-Africa Games and 2007 All-Africa Games, in Abuja and Algiers respectively, but then failed to the 2011 Games in Maputo.

West African rivals Ghana accounted for the Falcons in the last hurdle year. A 1-1 draw in Abuja was followed by a lone goal defeat by the Black Queens in Accra.[pro_ad_display_adzone id=”10″]

When the Super Falcons were drawn Mali for the only qualifying round of this year’s tournament taking place in Congo-Brazzaville, many football aficionados dismissed the Malians. In the first leg in Bamako, Ngozi Okobi shot Nigeria ahead and an avalanche was expected. But it never came. Instead, the Malians equalized following a late error by goalkeeper Ibubeleye Whyte.

On , in Abuja, the Malians will take the pitch against the eight- African champions. But Coach Edwin Okon will be for them. Okon, through the Nigeria Football Federation, has assembled the strongest strike-force in African football, Desire Oparanozie and Asisat Oshoala flying from Europe to join the Falcons’ camp.

Oshoala, who plays for Liverpool Ladies in the Super League in England, is the poster girl of Nigeria football. She is reigning African Woman Player of the Year, was selected the Most Valuable Player of the FIFA U-20 ’s in Canada last year and also won the same title at the African Women Championship in Namibia few months later.

Oshoala was also the Highest Scorer in Namibia, with four goals, behind Oparanozie’s five won the later the Highest Scorer award.

Oshoala scored seven goals at the U-20 in Canada, to also win the Highest Scorer award, and is a restless fighter who never gives up until she has scored as many as she could in any match. She already has a goal and assist for Liverpool Ladies, in only two Women Super League matches.

Oparanozie plays for En Avant de Guingamp Ladies in France, and has scored 10 goals for the club.

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Oshoala and Oparanozie are the most feared strikers in African women football, and will like to use ’s crucial game to underscore , sharpen their partnership’s potency for the 7th FIFA Women’s coming up in Canada this summer and guarantee appearance at the All-Africa Games for the first . Seriously, can Mali withstand Africa’s most potent strike-force on Friday?