The large number of supporters by co-hosts, Australia, will not prevent the Super Falcons from giving their best in tomorrow’s second group match of the ongoing FIFA Women’s World Cup holding in Australia and New Zealand, the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) has assured.
After holding Olympics champions, Canada, to a 0-0 draw in their first group match, Coach Randy Waldrun and his players have another mountain to climb tomorrow against group leaders, Australia.
The Nigerians need to win or at worse avoid defeat to stand a chance of progressing to the round of 16.
In their game against Canada, the Super Falcons enjoyed great support from Australian fans.
“The Australians really gave us good support in the game against Canada because they wanted the Super Falcons to win so that Canada won’t stand a good chance of qualifying from the group by the time they meet Australia in their last group match. But we don’t expect the Australians to cheer our girls against their team on Thursday,” NFF Secretary General, Dr. Mohammed Sanusi, told The Guardian from the team’s camp.
Sanusi is optimistic that the Super Falcons will turn the heat on Australia and their large supporters tomorrow.
“Our girls should know how to handle such situation. They have seen it all in women’s football and I am optimistic that we will win the match,” he said.
Nigeria and Australia will set alight the Lang Park in Brisbane/Meaanjin tomorrow morning in what is one of the most-anticipated clashes of the group stage at this ninth edition of the FIFA Women’s World Cup finals.
With the maximum three points from their opening match against Republic of Ireland in Sydney on July 20, the Matildas know they have a fight on their hands against nine-time African champions, Super Falcons, who refused to bow to Olympic champions, Canada, in Melbourne the following day.
The Super Falcons know only a win will be good enough to stand them in good stead for a place in the Round of 16, as only the two top-placed teams in each of the eight groups will make progress in a tournament that has welcomed 32 teams for the first time ever.
“Of course, it is the World Cup. You have to accept the fact that you are going to play the best teams in the world and you have to be alive to that responsibility and face it with your full chest,” team captain, OnomeEbi, told thenff.com after the tournament draw that was conducted in Auckland, New Zealand in October 2022.
Yesterday, Ebi reiterated the position of the Super Falcons: “We will go in there and play to win. There are no two ways about it. Only three points will be good enough for us.”
Ebi says their five-match unbeaten streak is one of the callipers that will keep the girls going strong on a turf much more familiar to their opponents and in front of dozens of thousands of a partisan crowd at the Lang Park.
Before the draw with Canada, the Super Falcons had pipped Costa Rica 1-0, edged Haiti 2-1, trounced New Zealand 3-0 and slayed Lions Women’s Football Club 8-1 before the World Cup.
Goalkeeper Chiamaka Nnadozie has returned to training after being excused for one day following the MVP-winning performance against Canada in Melbourne, and consistency is expected in the selection of the rearguard, with Michelle Alozie and Ashley Plumptre on the wings, and veteran Osinachi Ohale and youthful Oluwatosin Demehin at central.
The co-hosts will have to do without their talismanic captain, Sam Kerr, who has been the face on most advertisements pertaining to the tournament here.
Antithetically, Nigeria has gained with the return of the fabulous Rasheedat Ajibade – whose goal against Cameroun in the Women Africa Cup of Nations’ quarterfinals secured Nigeria’s passage to these finals – and midfield battering ram Halimatu Ayinde from suspension.
Asisat Oshoala, who suffered a knock against the Canadians, could be excused, with Nigeria sufficiently blessed in Desire Oparanozie, Jennifer Echegini, Gift Monday and Uchenna Kanu.
Meanwhile, some Nigerian analysts have advised Waldrum to bench the duo of Francisca Ordega and Oshoala in tomorrow’s second group match against Australia. Instead, they want the coach to pick among Uchenna Kanu, Ifeoma Onumonu and Gift Monday to lead the Super Falcons’ attack.
They want the coach to avoid the mistake by former coach, Edwin Okon at Canada 2015 edition of the World Cup, in which Ordega and Oshoala were ineffective against Australia. That match ended 2-0 for Australia in the city of Winnipeg.