Super Falcons coach Randy Waldrum tells ‘TANA AIYEJINA about his team’s resurgence against Australia and today’s crucial clash against the Irish, which will determine his side’s fate, in this interview
Congrats on your team’s victory over co-hosts Australia. What does this win mean for you and the team?
The win against Australia is a huge win for this team, considering they are in the top five in the world and host nation. But the most important thing is that it gets us one step closer to getting out of our group and that’s where we hope to be.
How was the team able to respond so quickly to Australia’s opener with Uchenna Kanu’s equaliser?
I think the response to the Australia opener was huge for us. They scored five minutes before halftime and you know that is demoralising, but I think the players just stayed focused and continued to believe in themselves and that goal was huge. Toni Payne with her run out of the midfield with the ball, then playing it to Rasheedat Ajibade and then the goal. Actually, it was what turned the game around for us because we came out of the locker room with a completely different mindset at that point.
Would you say this is your greatest win so far as a coach?
Obviously, it’s probably one of the biggest wins that we have had since I’ve been with the Super Falcons. We have had some good wins and played some good competitions, but to do it at this stage against Australia with a FIFA world ranking higher than ours is a great result. Also, the game against Canada was very good as well. Both of these matches, I would say, are the greatest moments for me as a coach and for this team.
What did you tell the girls that spurred them on in the second half?
We had to clean up a little bit of some things happening tactically in the midfield. We were giving too much room in the middle, so, we had to sort that and also defensively. But I felt like we could go after them a little bit more offensively and create more than we did: just try to spur them on and give them confidence. We talked about the half (first half) being the way it went and that we weren’t playing at our best that we knew we could get things turned. After just a couple of tactical adjustments, we just tried to encourage some confidence in going forward and obviously some of the substitutions helped us change the game as well.
That over 12 minutes of added time must have been your most tortuous time as a coach. How did you feel during this period?
I knew there was going to be a lot of added minutes just because of the injuries that we had and the way the game was going. It was the longest minutes of the whole game. It seemed longer than the 90 minutes. They were throwing everything at us and we sat back trying to defend and hold the lead. Obviously, it was a torturous time as a coach. When the final whistle was blown, it was an unbelievable feeling.
And what was going through your mind when the Australians scored their second goal in added time?
When Australia scored the second goal in added time, I knew it was going to be dicey. We were talking about 10 minutes before then, that if they got the second goal it was going to get shaky for us. We were trying to switch things and go into a 5-4-1 to protect the lead. Unfortunately, we gave away 16 corners, and didn’t do a good job on the goal. Nobody really challenged (Alanna) Kennedy and that was a mistake on our part. Fortunately, it happened like a minute before the end of the game so we were able to hold on but it was very tense.
Falcons play Ireland next to secure a spot in the next round. How is the team looking forward to the game?
Ireland, first of all, it’s not going to be an easy game. They’ve been very good in the first two matches and probably if they had managed the game better, they would have gotten a result against Canada. We certainly can’t take it that we are already through because we are not, and we’ve been focusing on recovery, getting fresh and healthy and reminding ourselves about what we are playing for and that we have to go out and control our destiny, which a draw and a win will assure us. A win certainly gives us the chance to even win the group, and not getting the result, we could be out on goal difference. So, still a lot to play for and just trying to keep them focused and not read the hype that is going in the media, stay level-headed, be professional and make sure we finish out the job.