Nigeria WNT coach Randy Waldrum inks new deal, targets Paris Olympics

Nigeria's Asisat Oshoala looks forward to new challenges at Bay FC (2:06)

Bay FC's new signing Asisat Oshoala discusses what challenges she expects after joining the NWSL expansion team from Barcelona. (2:06)

Six months on from his last game with the Super Falcons, head coach Randy Waldrum has returned to Nigeria's women's national team after agreeing a contract extension.

Although both the federation and the coach remain mum on the details of the new contract, an official told ESPN that the extension was for one year, which would take the American through both the 2024 Women's Africa Cup of Nations and the 2024 Olympic Games, should they qualify for it.

In January, Gusau said both sides had reached an agreement in principle, after being held up by Waldrum's insistence on having his former assistant Lauren Gregg on his staff.

"We had a lot of discussions with Waldrum. We had issues before the World Cup, about who he wanted in the team, but in the contract of NFF and Waldrum, there's nowhere it is stated that Waldrum has the right to come with any assistant," Gusau said last month.

"He talked about increment of his allowances and we said no. As far as I'm concerned, the Falcons didn't surpass their highest level of performance at the World Cup, a quarter-final outing. So, he didn't meet the parameter for us to negotiate a new allowance.

"That's what took place before he finally agreed to go with us."

In Waldrum's absence, assistant coach Justin Madugu has guided the team to qualification for the WAFCON 2024, and through to the penultimate round of the 2024 Olympic qualifiers, where they face old foes Cameroon this weekend.

The Super Falcons seek a return to the Games after missing out for the last 16 years, with their last appearance being in Beijing 2008.

"The goal is to qualify for the Olympics," Waldrum told ESPN. "We can't look ahead of ourselves as to the success of the Olympics until we get there, so qualification is going to be the primary goal and as everyone knows, we have very difficult matches coming up next with Cameroon. All the focus now will be on those two matches."

The American is right about how difficult the task ahead will be. Cameroon eliminated the Super Falcons in 2012, advancing via a penalty shoot-out in Yaounde after both teams finished the two legs in a stalemate. Four years later, it was Equatorial Guinea who made the journey to Rio 2016 impossible and Cote d'Ivoire torpedoed the Falcons chances of getting a place in Tokyo.

The Super Falcons must now face the Cameroonian hurdle to reach the final round of the African qualification series, with Waldrum adding: "They will be difficult.

"Cameroon stopped us from going to the Olympics in 2012. Both countries know each other very well and they certainly have a lot of talent. They are also very dangerous especially in the counterattacking style of play, but I really like our squad. I like the team, I like the team's chemistry."

Almost all the players who took part at the 2023 World Cup have have been handed call-ups by the coach to his 21-person squad to prosecute both fixtures this weekend. Six time African Woman's Player of the Year winner Asisat Oshoala leads the group, along with captain Rasheedat Ajibade, goalkeeper Chiamaka Nnadozie, and midfielder Deborah Abiodun.

Defender Ashleigh Plumptre, who last turned out for Nigeria at the World Cup, also returns after six months away as she took time to settle in with her new club in the Saudi Women's league.

"We were able to get all our players back in for these two matches," Waldrum said. "I think that is very important. If we can put performances like we did at the World Cup, then I really like our chances."

With so little time to prepare, Waldrum says it will be important for the team to build on the tempo of what they did at the World Cup: "We need to carry on what we did, build on it and even be better. The difficult part of these matches or any of our matches is that the window of time for international breaks doesn't give you a lot of training time.

"So we are going to have to rely on a lot on our experiences at the World Cup to take us through especially for this first match against Cameroon before we really get good days of training for the second match."

The fixture against Cameroon is the third round of the African qualifying series for the Women's Olympic Football tournament. They beat Ethiopia over two legs to reach this stage and the first leg will take place at the Stade de la Reunification in Douala on Friday evening.

The second leg match will hold at the MKO Abiola National Stadium, Abuja Monday February 26, with the winner advancing to the final round of qualification to face the winners of the fixture between South Africa and Tanzania in the final round in April.

Two teams from the continent will qualify for Paris 2024.