Asisat Oshoala's impactful return may have saved Nigeria coach Randy Waldrum's job

Asisat Oshoala and Desire Oparanozie returned to the Super Falcons this past international break for the first time in months, and things are finally beginning to look up for Nigeria coach Randy Waldrum.

After snapping a 7-game losing streak with a 1-0 win over Costa Rica last month, the Super Falcons emerged from the last international window with two wins from two, with both players weighing in with trademark strikes.

A 2-1 win over Haiti was followed by a 3-0 beatdown of New Zealand, taking the Super Falcons to three wins on the spin, with six goals scored, two clean sheets and only one goal allowed.

The results come as welcome relief for the American ahead of the Women's World Cup, who has been under intense pressure since failing to medal at the Women's Africa Cup of Nations last year.

While the opposition were not quite of the quality of Japan, USA or even Canada that the Super Falcons had faced, Haiti and New Zealand are also World Cup-bound, and the Ferns are a higher-ranked team than the Falcons.

However, the keys for Waldrum and his team lay in a confluence of circumstances.

To begin with, Waldrum had the full complement of his top stars, and he was happy to throw them all into the fray, albeit sparingly. Oparanozie returned for the first time since the WAFCON qualifying game against Ghana.

Barcelona striker Oshoala, who picked up an injury during the team's opening WAFCON game against South Africa and departed the tournament soon after, returned for the first time since.

And right on cue, both players found the target. Oshoala, who is the leading scorer in Spain's top flight this season, was on hand to score the second against Haiti and Oparanozie the last against New Zealand.

Beyond their goals, it was what they brought to the team. Their leadership, their penetration, and strength had the whole team playing better than they did without them.

"Them being in this camp was very good and it helped a lot," fellow forward Esther Okoronkwo told ESPN. "We have always wanted to be together as a team with all these players.

"But it has never worked out because it's either one is injured or other situation. This camp we were able to come together and play together. It is very important, especially for the World Cup and hopefully, we will have everyone."

Merely having the players may not have changed much without the time to get them to work together. One of Waldrum's biggest drawbacks has been the lack of time to practice with his team.

For most off their friendly matches, the team tends to arrive with just days to the first game, battling jetlag and with barely enough time to recover, let alone get in adequate practice time. And the results under Waldrum had been reflective.

This time was different. They had almost a full week in Turkey before taking on Haiti. And with a few additional days of practice, they not only scored three goals against the Kiwis, but kept a clean sheet.

Waldrum is planning for an even longer camp ahead of the World Cup: "The good thing is these last two camps we have been building and it's gotten better and better the more time we spend together. This is what we need leading into camp before the World Cup.

"Next we will go into a training camp for a few weeks prior to heading over to Australia and that will give us a good chance to work out some of these things, the shape the passing quality and some of our movements. But we are getting there."

Part of the reason for the good performances was that the deployment of players. Apart from Michelle Alozie, who he again put at right back -- and in fairness, she excelled there -- Waldrum appeared to have jettisoned his tendency to play players out of position.

The performances also helped answer some potential questions about the potential starting team, while presenting Waldrum with selection headaches elsewhere.

Youngster Blessing Demehin is growing into a defensive force, and could well be a fixture at centreback, with veterans Osinachi Ohale, Onome Ebi and Ashleigh Plumptre battling for that second spot.

Upfront is where he faces a selection headache, one that might cause imbalances elsewhere as he tries to shoe-horn as many of his top players as possible into the World Cup squad.

With Oshoala and Oparanozie back, Waldrum is now confronted with a glut of attacking players, that includes Gotham FC's Ify Onumonu, Uchenna Kanu, Esther Okoronkwo, Jennifer Echegini, Monday Gift, Toni Payne, and Rasheedat Ajibade.

"We have amazing individual players," Okoronkwo said. "But individuals are not going to win trophies. We have to come together as a team and play as a team.

"We are not just dreaming about Australia, but also performing and showing the world what Nigeria can do because we are a really, really good team with good players and we just have to show it."

With results now pointing in the right direction, it is the off field issues that Nigeria will need to resolve if they are to make it out of the group that includes Australia, Ireland and Canada.