Nigeria coach Randy Waldrum wary of 'sharp and organised' USWNT

Udoh: AWCON draw almost embarrassingly unbelievable (1:39)

Colin Udoh doesn't understand how two of the strongest teams in Nigeria and Ghana have been drawn together in the AWCON qualifiers. (1:39)

As he gets ready for his biggest test since taking on the job as Nigeria's Super Falcons coach, Randy Waldrum is wary of the well-trained threat posed by the world champion U.S. Women's National Team.

The Super Falcons are scheduled to play friendlies against Jamaica, Portugal, and the USWNT in June as they ramp up preparations for their Africa Women's Cup of Nations qualifiers against Ghana in October.

The teams last met at the FIFA Women's World Cup in Canada in 2015, with the Americans winning 1-0. The USWNT have won all five clashes between them, with a 17-2 goal difference.

Former Houston Dash coach Waldrum, who was named Nigeria coach in May 2020, told ESPN: "There are a lot of threats within the U.S. team.

"I could go down their roster and talk to you about each of the individual players and how important they are and the problems they can cause us.

"But I think that the biggest thing is the fact that the US team are together, training together on a regular basis. They have access to their players probably more than any other country in the world, and they've been preparing for a long time now for the Olympics, so we are going to find a very in-form team.

"That probably concerns me as much as any of the individual players. I think all of their players are capable of creating problems for your team.

"But I think the most important thing is how well we can play against a team that has been sharp and organized and very focused in their training for the last six or seven months.

"So certainly this is only going to help us in our growth as a program and I really want to thank [NFF] President [Amaju] Pinnick for making this happen. He's been great in terms of allowing us competition after a long layoff and I'm extremely appreciative of that."

While Waldrum is right to be wary of Alex Morgan and company, he is looking to use the games in the U.S. as a way to properly evaluate his players as he's not had much time with them aside from a short tournament in Turkey in February.

Waldrum, who will be able to call on newly crowned UWCL winner Asisat Oshoala, said: "We will be looking at the areas that the team needs to improve on as we move forward and get ready for Ghana and the rest of the teams in the African Cup of Nations.

"You always want these kind of competition in order to expose your team in areas where you know you need to improve."

Post-friendlies, Waldrum will have to turn his attentions to the looming battle against arch rivals Ghana for the AWCON qualifiers. With the Women's Championship also doubling as the qualifiers for the FIFA Women's World Cup, failure to qualify is not an option.

But CAF's decision to move away from the seeding of top teams like Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon and South Africa, in favour of a regional draw, means that one of Nigeria or Ghana, who are two of the strongest teams on the continent, along with the emerging power Cote d'Ivoire will lose out on the AWCON and subsequently, the World Cup.

It is a decision that has left many in African football taken aback. Waldrum is no exception: "I was a little surprised there wasn't some type of seeding done, for the top teams to meet hopefully farther into the tournament.

"But understanding that if you are going to win you have got to play somebody good anyway, we certainly will prepare for this difficult first leg game.

"I think our draw for the AWCON is a difficult one. Obviously we know about Ghana and what a great side they are and certainly we have a lot of respect for them."

Ghana were the very first side to beat Nigeria on the African continent when they won 1-0 against the Super Falcons at the 2002 African Women Championship on the back of Alberta Sackey's lone strike. The Black Queens have been the Super Falcons biggest rivals on the continent.

Cote d'Ivoire have recently emerged as string contenders, eliminating the Super Falcons during Olympic qualifying and Waldrum is fully aware of the potential pitfalls of playing both sides.

He added: "These qualifiers are certainly extremely important to make it to Morocco. We know we've got two very strong sides in our way.

"We have a lot of respect for Ghana and Cote d'Ivoire and what they have done in the past and the strength of their programs so certainly we've got to be prepared for it.

"We know that it brings some urgency to our success early and we'll be prepared for it. We will certainly have our team ready to play."