Ngozi Okobi: Nigeria midfielder calls for more fixtures before Women's World Cup

By Oluwashina OkelejiFootball Writer, Nigeria
Ngozi Okobi
Ngozi Okobi was part of the Nigeria team that won the 2018 Women's Africa Cup of Nations in Ghana

Nigerian Super Falcons midfielder Ngozi Okobi has called for the African champions to be given adequate preparation before flying to France for the 2019 Women's World Cup.

The team is scheduled to take part in the four-nation China Cup and the prestigious Cyprus Cup in January and February respectively, ahead of the Women's global event next summer.

After exiting the 2015 tournament at the group stage, Okobi has called for more fixtures to be arranged for the Falcons, who have been drawn in Group A alongside 2019 hosts France, Norway and South Korea.

"The tournament in China and Cyprus is not enough, because these games are in January and February," Okobi told BBC Sport.

"What then happens after February until June? We need more quality international friendlies to put us in shape.

"Top friendlies bring the best out of the team. They also provide enough time for the players to further understand the coach's ideas, philosophy and also to get used to ourselves.

"The World Cup is not a place for us to be trying things out, so we need top matches to prepare us adequately."

Between winning the African title in 2016 and defending it in Ghana in 2018, Nigeria's solitary top friendly ended in an 8-0 defeat at the hands of France, equalling their record defeats against Norway (1995) and Germany (2010).

Their lack of adequate preparation saw them falter and struggle but they edged South Africa in the final to clinch a ninth continental title out of 11 editions early this month.

After a stuttering campaign on the continent, Okobi believes denying the Falcons sufficient preparation time could lead to another tough challenge on the world stage.

"It's very important for the federation to arrange something big for us," said Okobi.

"We've witnessed how the gap is gradually closing on the continent between us and others.

"For the World Cup we need to triple things up because we can't wake up one morning without top matches and then start travelling to France."

Nigeria will open their campaign against Norway on 8 June in Reims, then South Korea in Grenoble on 12 June before facing France on 17 June in Rennes.

Nigeria are the only African team to have played in all of the Women's World Cup tournaments since 1991.

They have failed to translate their continental dominance on the world stage, with their best performance coming in USA in 1999 when they reached the quarter-finals.

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