Co-hosts Australia will be playing their second Group B Women’s World Cup game against the highest-ranked African country Nigeria in a match that promises a lot of entertainment and action. While both teams possess different points on the table, they would be looking to play their best football and win to gain a better foothold in the competition.
Australia, without star striker Sam Kerr due to a calf injury, played well much to some surprise, beating Ireland on opening day. However, they needed a bit of luck to win, as the players simply refused to put even one shot on target until some minutes before the end of the first half. They continued to press hard and were rewarded in the fiftieth minute of the second half where Ireland’s Marissa Sheva committed a foul in the box. Steph Catley sent the keeper the wrong way to break the deadlock and give the Australians a boost. The game, however, turned on its head, as the Irish took matters into their own hands and pushed for an equalizer, getting their first shot on target some twenty-two minutes after and repeatedly probing the Matildas. Australia held firm and saw the game out, picking up precious three points and taking the top spot for themselves.
Nigeria, on the other hand, surprised many by opting for a counter-attacking formation to nullify the expected Canadian attack. While it was effective, it also did not play to their strengths, as elite striker Oshoala was isolated up front for much of the game. The Super Falcons were not able to impose their physical strength on the game as a result, and it was a wonder they did not concede any goals throughout the encounter. While the defense alone blocked eight shots, goalie Chiamaka Nnadozie saved three, including a superb save from veteran Canadian forward Christine Sinclair’s penalty in the fiftieth minute. Nevertheless, the team will be delighted with taking the point and conceding no goals and will look to get more points on board against Australia at Brisbane Stadium. All starters against Canada should be present, except for Deborah Abiodun who incurred the tournament’s first red card for a messy challenge on Ashley Lawrence just before the final whistle. Jennifer Echegini is most likely to replace Deborah for the game against Australia. Also, Asisat Oshoala is a doubt as she was taken off during the game against Canada due to a knock. The good news is that Rasheedat Ajibade and Halimatu Ayinde, who were suspended for the previous match due to cards in the WAFCON, will be available against the Matildas.
It will be interesting to see Nigeria head coach Waldrum’s approach for the Australia game, as it is now make or break; a loss could send them out of the tournament if Ireland manages a shock win against Olympic champions Canada. The test is well and truly on for both teams, in what is sure to be a fascinating duel. I hope Nigeria comes out top anyways, being a Nigerian myself. See you in the next preview!