On Saturday, June 8th, the Super Falcons began their 2019 Women’s World Cup campaign with a 3:0 loss to Norway. This was the starting eleven for the Nigerians: Oluehi at goal, Michael, Ohale, Ebere and Ebi in defence, Ayinde, Chikwelu and Okobi in midfield with Oshoala, Oparanozie and Ordega in attack.
The Super Falcons number 5, Onome Ebi took her place in defence for the fifth straight Women’s World Cup. With more the 80 international caps to her name, Ebi became an instant legend. She played her first big tournament in 2003 and has since been in the 2007, 2011, 2015 and now in the 2019 squad.
A few months ago, she was a doubt but, in the end, coach Thomas Dennerby included her in the squad, leaving Ini-Abasi Umotong out. There was a lot of press about these decisions. Last year, the 36-year old Henan Huishang player was Nigeria’s Player of the year.
Ebi played the full 90 minutes against Norway and so became the first African player (male or female) ever to have appeared in five World Cups. Before this she was already a record holder with four World Cups, but she was sharing that record with some of African footballing legends.
She was not the only woman to have held the record of playing four World Cups before this year. Other Nigerian stars like Perpetua Nkwocha, Stella Mbachu, Precious Dede, Nkiru Okosieme and Florence Omagbemi also have four World Cups on their books.
Dede and Nkwocha both had close to a 100 caps for the Super Falcons. Nkwocha played in three Olympic tournaments as well as in four World Cups. And she scored 80 goals in her international career.
They all stand shoulder to shoulder with Super Eagles and Nigerian legends Rigobert Song and Samuel Eto’o. Song played in the 1994, 1998, 2002 and 2010 World Cups while Eto’o was part of the 1998, 2002, 2010 and 2014 squads.
It’s safe to say that Onome Ebi is one of the all-time great Nigerian players. Playing in five World Cups is unprecedented in Nigerian history and is a feat not likely to be repeated soon by either the Eagles or the Falcons. Apart from the World Cups, Ebi was part of the 2008 Olympics squad and has won the African Cup of Nations four times.
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