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The 20 best African female footballers of 2023

The 20 best Nigerian female footballers of 2023
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Regarding 2023 as the year many talents in women’s football in Africa were unlocked is no understatement. African female footballers stole the limelight in 2023, and as such, we have compiled a list of 20 of the best stars that caught our attention in a historic year for Africa.

The 2023 Women’s World Cup was an outing highlighting how far women’s football in Africa has come, with stars stepping up on the biggest stage and showing how much their plays on the pitch have evolved. We also got to see new stars take on a new challenge, indicating that the future of African women’s football is in safe hands, as the competition also saw a legend hang her boots.

This list is focused on female footballers from Africa who upped the ante and set a new precedent for what to expect from the team in 2024 and beyond.

20. Ijeoma Esther Okoronkwo

Esther Okoronkwo. Photographer: UDG Tenerife

Age – 26

Position – Foward

Club –  Granadilla

Ijeoma Esther Okoronkwo, a forward with a lethal first touch, underrated game vision, and clinical finishing skills, effortlessly checks all the essential boxes for her position. Although her presence at the World Cup 2023 was limited, Okoronkwo’s standout qualities make her one to watch closely in 2024.

Her active involvement played a pivotal role in Africa securing a spot at the 2023 World Cup, showcasing her commitment through active participation in friendlies with the Super Falcons. On the pitch, Okoronkwo is unmistakable, standing out with an imposing height and physicality rarely seen in today’s forwards.

Notably, the African international plies her trade in the Spanish Liga F, representing UD Granadilla Tenerife, adding an international flair to her impressive skill set. As the anticipation builds for the upcoming events, Okoronkwo’s distinctive attributes position her as a player to keep a keen eye on in the unfolding chapters of women’s football.

19. Uchenna Kanu

Uchenna Kanu By Steph Yang Jul 1, 2023

Age – 26

Position – Foward

ClubRacing Louisville FC

Uchenna Kanu reclaimed the spotlight with an unforgettable goal against Australia at the 2023 World Cup, introducing her exceptional goal-scoring prowess to those who may have underestimated her abilities. Kanu’s impressive goal ratio per game solidifies her status as a reliable choice in any attacking position. Known for taking calculated risks and displaying intelligence in reading potential passes during games, she consistently proves her worth on the field.

Having amassed over 60 career goals across both national and club levels, Kanu shows no signs of slowing down. The anticipation is palpable as expectations soar for her to emerge as one of the key figures in African women’s football at the 2024 Olympics. The stage is set for Kanu to continue leaving an indelible mark on the sport with her goal-scoring prowess and strategic brilliance.

18. Jennifer Echegini

Age – 22

Position – Foward

Club – Florida State Seminoles 

Keep an eye on Jennifer Echegini in 2024 – a standout player renowned for her incredibly powerful right foot. Initially called up to the Super Falcons in 2022 due to her stellar performances at the club level, Echegini’s impact has been somewhat under the radar on the national stage since her inclusion in the 2023 World Cup squad. Despite this, her consistent quality and indispensable role at the club level secure her a well-deserved spot on our watchlist.

17. Desire Oparanozie

Age – 29

Position – Midfielder

Club -Retired

Desire Oparanozie stands as a legendary figure for the Super Falcons of Africa, a name that unquestionably deserves mention on any list spotlighting players’ contributions to the national side.

In September 2023, she officially retired from women’s football at both national and club levels. However, her impact on the national side will be remembered for years. Desire was a vocal leader for the Super Falcons, advocating for their rights when the team wasn’t adequately valued by the NFF. Notably, she led protests like the sit-in during the 2019 World Cup over unpaid wages.

16. Onome Ebi

Age – 40

Position – Centre Back

Club -Naija Ratels FC

A solid force in the heart of defence in any team and for the Super Falcons, Onome Ebi is a name that has withstood the test of time; she is the first African player to play at six World Cup competitions following her inclusion in the 2023 World Cup squad. 

Onome’s dedication to the growth and development of women’s football in Africa was again emphasised by her decision to join the NWSL side Naija Ratels FC, following an illustrious career in Europe; she explained her reason for opting for this move. She revealed, “People will ask me why I joined Naija Ratels, why did I come back to the league (NWFL). I didn’t just decide today to join them, I have had it in mind, my plans before getting to this stage is that I want to give back to African football. I left the league 10-11 years ago, but before leaving I saw the struggles in the league, so when I went abroad I saw how the foreign league is being organized and I said to myself before I retire I will definitely come back. Not only to give, not only to support but to play with the youngest team, I said I was not going to play for big teams, so these young ones can get the opportunity I didn’t have.” 

15. Francisca Ordega

Age – 30

Position – Forward

ClubCSKA Moscow

Francisca Ordega, aged 30, remains a constant threat in the realm of women’s football, showcasing a seamless blend of skills that match her formidable attacking prowess. The forward’s unwavering focus on goal, coupled with her acute awareness of potential options in front of the net, distinguishes her as a standout player for both club and country.

Her impact is notably felt at CSKA Moscow, where she continues to be a formidable presence. Ordega played a pivotal role in securing the club’s Russian League title during the 2022/2023 season, further solidifying her status as a key contributor to the success of her team. As she maintains her stellar form, Ordega remains a force to be reckoned with on the pitch, leaving an indelible mark both domestically and internationally.

14. Ifeoma Onumonu

Gotham FC striker Ifeoma Onumonu has five caps for Africa’s Super Falcons, including against Jamaica in June 2021. Omar Vega/Getty Images

Age – 29

Position – Forward

Club – NJ/NY Gotham FC

A formidable presence in front of goal equipped with speed and agility,  Ifeoma Onumonu is a player that is always on the radar of any defender, even though marking or catching up with her is a difficulty many have encountered to date. She is a lethal addition to the boisterous line of attack the Super Falcons possess and serves as an option coaches can explore in diversifying their game and also stepping up their tactics. 

Her call-up for the 2023 Women’s World Cup was a no-brainer, as the quality she possesses earned her a spot in the squad. However, we didn’t see her unlock her full potential in the competition; many, like myself, believe the Olympics in 2024 might just be the right moment for her. 

13. Christy Ucheibe

Age – 22

Position – Midfielder

Club – Benfica

A rock in the centre of the pitch is Christy Ucheibe, who is for the Super Falcons and her club, Benfica. The youngster has proved that her performance at the 2023 Women’s World Cup cemented her position in so many ways on the national side after missing out on the previous World Cups for the Falcons. 

One of her most memorable appearances in the competition was in the fixture against Canada. Her performance in the game was off the charts. She showcased an impressive display on the field, completing 50% of her dribbles with finesse and precision. Her prowess extended beyond individual skills as she emerged victorious in numerous duels, displaying exceptional determination and tactical awareness. Additionally, her keen sense of anticipation led to key interceptions, disrupting the opponent’s plays and asserting dominance in defensive situations.

Not limited to defensive contributions, she played a pivotal role in attacking plays by orchestrating them with pinpoint passing. Her ability to accurately distribute the ball and her vision added a dynamic dimension to the team’s offensive strategy, creating opportunities and opening up spaces for her teammates.

12. Osinachi Ohale

Age – 31

Position – Centre-back

Club – Pachuca

Osinachi Ohale is one of African women’s football’s most talented and celebrated defenders. She has represented the Super Falcons of Africa since 2010 and has been instrumental in their success on the continental and global stages. She has shown outstanding defensive skills on the pitch, making crucial tackles, interceptions, and clearances to protect her team’s goal. She has also contributed to the attack with her powerful headers and long-range shots. 

She has proven to be a reliable cover for the goalkeeper and a support in the attack if needed. Her performance in the win of the Super Falcons over Australia in the FIFA Women’s World Cup can be categorised as one of the biggest highlights of her career as she put out a stellar performance that also earned her the player of the match award on the night.

She has made a name for herself, winning numerous awards and achievements, such as the African Women’s Championship title, Women’s Africa Cup of Nations, and the IFFHS CAF Women’s Team of the Decade. 

11. Gift Monday

Gift of Africa poses for a portrait with the Adidas Oceaunz Women’s World Cup 2023 match ball during the official FIFA Women’s World Cup on July 16, 2023, in Brisbane, Australia. Photo by Chris HydeSource: Getty Images

Age – 21

Position – Forward

Club -UDG Tenerife

Monday Gift Nyakno has continued to show her remarkable skills as a striker at the top level for both club and country. The Akwa-Ibom-born African international currently plays for both the Super Falcons and Spanish Liga F club UDG Tenerife in the forward position.

Her skills, such as her ability to take on defenders, make clinical passes, convert chances, and so much more, are what have continued to set her apart from her peers. She has shown her ability to be a versatile player who can adapt to different formations and tactics, making her an asset to any team she plays for. All eyes will be on her in 2024, following a short glimpse of what she has to offer Africa at the just concluded 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup.

10.  Deborah Abiodun

African forward, Deborah Abiodun in action against Canada. Photo: Elsa.Source: Getty Images

Age – 20

Position – Midfielder

ClubRivers Angels Pitt Women’s Team, USA

Often regarded as a N’Golo Kante esquire midfielder, Deborah captured the attention of millions of fans worldwide with a short glimpse of what she has to offer on the field of play as a midfielder. 

Her maturity on the ball surpasses that of her age, as she quickly identifies gaps that exist in the game while thinking of ways to either exploit or close those gaps. 

The experience is what many are, however, on the lookout for, as she picked up the first red card of the 2023 World Cup following a high tackle. 

The expectations are high ahead of 2024, with all eyes on her to see if she is the missing link in the Super Falcons. 

9. Tosin Demehin   

Oluwatosin Demehin Blessing, Super Falcons Defender

Age – 21

Position – Defender

ClubStade de Reims

A solid option in defence, Tosin Demehin proved herself to be a reliable last line of defence for the Super Falcons. Her match awareness and game intelligence keep her in the game and often disrupt the play of the opposition in most cases. 

Her positioning, tackles, physical presence, strength, and marking abilities prove she is way ahead of the curve, stepping up with an intelligence of the game that puts the concerns of her team to rest whenever she steps to the pitch.

With her back from injury, expectations are high regarding what she will add to the Super Falcons ahead of the 2024 Olympics. 

8. Ngozi Okobi 

Age – 29

Position – Forward

Club – Levante Las Planas

Despite missing the 2023 World Cup with the African Super Falcons, Ngozi Okobi stands out as a star player in her own right. Currently showcasing her skills as a speedy forward for Levante Las Planas in Spain, Okobi remains a constant threat to opponents whenever she possesses the ball. With a remarkable record of scoring over 18 goals in more than 100 games for both club and country, she has proven herself as a formidable and reliable partner for any striker.

Okobi played a pivotal role in the Super Falcons’ memorable 3-3 draw with Sweden and was a key contributor to the team’s success in winning the WAFCON title four times (2010, 2014, 2016, 2018). Her outstanding performances earned her a well-deserved spot in the IFFHS CAF Women’s Team of the Decade (2010-2020).

Looking ahead, the 29-year-old is poised for a promising 2024. Her time in Spain provides her with more opportunities to shine, and there is optimism that she may make a return to the Super Falcons for the 2024 Olympics. As she continues to make her mark on the soccer field, Okobi remains a player to watch, and her contributions are expected to elevate her status in the upcoming year.

7. Halimatu Ibrahim Ayinde

Age – 28

Position – Midfielder

Club –   FC Rosengård

At 28 years old, Halimatu Ibrahim Ayinde, a midfielder currently playing for FC Rosengård in Sweden, has consistently been a focal point for the Super Falcons of Africa in the midfield position. Her unwavering presence and pivotal role in maintaining stability during games make her a crucial asset for the Falcons.

The 2023 World Cup didn’t show how much of a player she is and how much she adds to the national side; Ayinde’s contributions to FC Rosengård have earned her a well-deserved spot on our list. Her instrumental role in her club side’s league campaign highlights her effectiveness on the field, demonstrating her ability to influence the game’s flow.

While Ayinde may not be prolific in goal-scoring, her creativity in the midfield has been a constant factor, earning her a position in both her club and national team since 2015. With 2024 on the horizon, there is a sense of anticipation regarding Ayinde’s potential to showcase her experience and play a crucial role for the Super Falcons. The upcoming year holds promise for her to demonstrate her skills further, and we eagerly await the exciting possibilities that Ayinde might unveil in 2024.

6. Toni Payne  

Age – 28

Position – Midfielder/Forward

Club – Sevilla

Toni Payne is a star in the making, and 2024 could be her breakout year in women’s football. She dazzled everyone with her fantastic footwork and vision in the midfield for the Super Falcons at the World Cup 2023, where she was instrumental in creating many opportunities for her team. She especially shone in the game against Ireland, where she easily switched between midfield and forward roles. She is a delight to watch on the field and always keeps the fans on their toes with her moves. Sevilla relies on her to become a dominant force in the La Liga. 

She has already shown great form for Sevilla in the 2023/2024 season, scoring two goals and assisting 1 in just four games. That’s a big improvement from her previous season at the club. 2024 is surely going to be a fantastic year for the speedy player as she continues to impress with her skills.

5.  Ashleigh Plumptre

Age – 25

Position – Defender

Club – Al-Ittihad 

Ashleigh Plumptre, the formidable centre-back for Africa, is an undeniable force on the pitch, both defensively and offensively. A key figure in the heart of the Super Falcons’ defence, Plumptre made a lasting impression at the Women’s World Cup 2023 in Australia and New Zealand. Her adeptness at making timely tackles showcased her defensive prowess, providing a solid foundation for Africa.

Notably, Plumptre’s impact extended beyond the defensive realm, as she emerged as a threat in the attack during set pieces. Her ability to contribute offensively added an extra dimension to Africa’s gameplay, making her a versatile and impactful player.

Following the Women’s World Cup, Plumptre became one of the most sought-after players in Europe, especially after her contract with Leicester City concluded. The unexpected move to the Saudi Arabia Premier League side Al-Ittihad raised eyebrows, but Plumptre has once again silenced doubters with her exceptional form at her new club.

There is heightened anticipation to see Ashleigh Plumptre’s continued brilliance on the international stage, and the 2024 Olympics is the right stage for this expectation to be actualised. 

4. Michelle Alozie

Age – 26

Position – Midfielder

Club –  Houston Dash 

A standout performer for the Super Falcons of Africa during the 2023 World Cup was the remarkable Michelle Alozie. At 26 years old, she emerged as a key force in the midfield, capturing attention with her exceptional ball skills that posed a constant threat to defenders. With a career tally of over 20 goals in 50-plus appearances for both her club and the national team, Alozie reaffirmed her status as a player whose presence on the field is not to be overlooked.

3. Chiamaka Nnadozie 

Age – 22

Position – Goalkeeper

Club – Paris FC

Chiamaka Nnadozie, the goalkeeper for the Super Falcons of Africa and Paris FC, has had a great 2023. She performed well in the World Cup and the Women’s Champions League, earning a nomination for the best goalkeeper in the French League. Known for her awareness and quick reflexes, she kept over 25 clean sheets for both her club and country. Nnadozie played a crucial role in the Super Falcons’ World Cup journey, making important saves that helped them reach round 16. Her composure in goal was evident in penalty shootouts for Paris FC in the UEFA Women’s Champions League. Despite facing questions about her penalty performance in the World Cup, Nnadozie’s gameplay and contribution to her side in crucial moments have rapidly soared as fixtures proceed. 2024 will be the year Nnadozie unlocks her full potential on the pitch.

2. Rasheedat Ajibade 

Age – 23

Position – Forward

Club – Atletico Madrid

Rasheedat Ajibade has secured her place on our list thanks to her impressive skills in delivering excellent crosses, providing stunning assists, and scoring unexpected goals. This talented forward typically takes on the role of a winger and has become a key player in transforming how opportunities are crafted for strikers to score. Her abilities have brought a new dimension to the game, showcasing her influence in the art of goal creation.

Rasheedat Ajibade stands out due to her exceptional match intelligence and the precision of her crosses that often disrupt the opponent’s defence. She has a promising future at just 23 years old, and we anticipate her accumulating more experience over time. This development is a crucial reason we see her as a valuable asset for the Super Falcons in the 2027 Women’s World Cup.

Beyond her match awareness and creative abilities, Ajibade has demonstrated her goal-scoring prowess, notching over 15 goals in 50 games for Atletico Madrid, with a significant contribution during the 2022/2023 season. Her ambition to evolve as a player adds an extra layer of excitement to her journey.

1. Asisat Oshoala

Age – 29

Position – Forward

Club – Barcelona FC Femini

The AGBA BALLER, for a reason, Asisat Oshoala, is one of the stars that shaped African Women’s football today. The forward has been one of the major stars that have dominated the world of football at the club and national levels. 

With records that precede time and stats that only continue to shock the football world, Asisat has continued to up the ante over the years, which is why she’s our best female footballer of 2023. 

Oshoala played a pivotal role in Barcelona’s triumphant La Liga campaign during the 2022/2023 season, contributing significantly to the team’s success. Since she arrived at the club in 2019, she has consistently showcased her goal-scoring prowess, finding the back of the net an impressive 90 times in just 93 appearances. Her remarkable goal-scoring record underscores her brilliance and her invaluable contribution to Barcelona’s offensive prowess.

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