It’s been quite a run-up to the start of the Women’s World Cup for Pitt’s Randy Waldrum, who has also been serving as the Head Coach of Nigeria’s Super Falcons, who are set to begin play in the biggest women’s soccer tournament in the World to be played in Australia vs a very strong Canadian side on Friday (10:30 p.m. Pittsburgh time | Fox Sports).
The Super Falcons are in Group B with host Australia, Canada, and the Republic of Ireland. After facing highly touted Canada, they face the hosts, Australia, on July 27. They conclude group play against Republic of Ireland on July 31.
Waldrum, who created a stir with Nigerian Football Federation and caught the attention of the African nation’s and worldwide media when sharing numerous concerns and problems he and the players were experiencing with the governing body that hired him, on Pittsburgh Soccer Now‘s Sounding Off on Soccer podcast.
Since that podcast, there was initially a war of words between the NFF, Waldrum and the players.
Waldrum remained steadfast in supporting the players on the roster which he selected to compete in the World Cup competition, which will include group stage matches vs Canada, host Australia and Ireland in the coming days.
“I think the players have appreciated the fact that I will step up for them and speak out on their behalf,” Waldrum said of his comments about the federation’s financial support for his team. “As a coach, I need to be a voice for the girls and fight for the things that they deserve to be getting.”
Things have quieted down in the past couple weeks, as Waldrum and his team have been preparing for the World Cup competition.
They’re now focused on the task at hand.
“Forget about the distractions, and just focus on the game,” star striker Asisat Oshoala, who plays for Barcelona, said after a training session in Brisbane this week.
“Their poster girl believes they can escape the pool, win a knockout-phase game for the first time ever, and even go on to lift the trophy at Stadium Australia. Asisat Oshoala is not the only intoxicating talent at Randy Waldrum’s disposal,” FIFA wrote. #Oshoala pic.twitter.com/kc0kYKcZz6
— Sixsport_Network (@SixsportN) July 11, 2023
Oshoala also said the players appreciate Waldrum’s support.
“He’s been helpful as well to the players,” Oshoala said. “He’s encouraged everyone to just go out there to play.”
Rumors arose recently that the Nigerian players would boycott their opening match against Canada, but the players put that kind of speculation to rest.
“We’re used to being in this situation now,” Oshoala said. “At the end of the day the girls understand it’s about their career, it’s about the nation first, and we’re going to go out there and play regardless.”
On PSN’s Sounding Off on Soccer podcast, Pitt’s women’s coach spoke about the importance of his squad coming away with something in the first match and playing with a sense of urgency against Canada, because they know they’ll have their hands full against the host nation early next week.
On Saturday, the Super Falcons thrashed Queensland Lions FC 8-1 in World Cup exhibition game.
Oshoala got a brace, while Rasheedat Ajibade, Ifeoma Onumunu, Toni Payne, Halimotu Ayinde, Monday Gift and Uchenna Kanu added a goal each.
After the match, Waldrum conducted this interview.
🗣️Our head coach Randy Waldrum shares his optimism ahead of our Women's World Cup opener against Canada after few days of training in Gold Coast 🇳🇿 💪#SoarSuperFalcons #FIFAWWC #TeamNigeria pic.twitter.com/PLGtsHd37B
— NGSuper_Falcons (@NGSuper_Falcons) July 13, 2023
“It’s been very good; camp has gone really well; the players are working really hard; the talent level is good,” Waldrum added. “We are happy with what we are into now, which is day five, so it’s been fun to watch.”
— NGSuper_Falcons (@NGSuper_Falcons) July 20, 2023
The spat between Waldrum, the players and the federation may have also been a distraction, but can’t hold back the excitement and news that another Pittsburgh-based soccer coach is involved, and is with the team in Australia as part of Nigeria’s coaching contingent.
PA West Soccer’s Director of Coaching, Dr. Terry Eguaoje, a Nigerian native, is part Waldrum’s staff as an assistant responsible for match analysis. According to release on PA West Soccer’s web page, Eguaoje’s primary function will be to assist in creating and coaching training sessions after analyzing the team performances of both the Nigerian Women’s Team and their opponents. He will also assist with in-game coaching.
The Penn Township resident previously assisted with the Nigerian Men’s National Team during the 2022 World Cup qualifiers against Ghana (home and away) and the 2022 African Nations Cup (AFCON).
“This is certainly a great opportunity for a soccer junkie like me, “ Eguaoje shared.
“It’s an opportunity for me to utilize, at the global stage, what we teach here in PA West Soccer in US Soccer Federation courses. I am excited and looking forward to the experience.”
Bottom line for Waldrum, Eguaoje and the staff who made the trip is that they been devoted to insuring Nigeria’s women’s players have the best possible coaching and resources available, even as the NFF has made things difficult.
“We will see where it all goes,” Waldrum exclaimed.
Excited to cheer on @CoachWaldrum and Deborah Abiodun at the Women's World Cup! 🇳🇬👏
— Pitt Women's Soccer (@Pitt_WSOC) July 19, 2023