The Super Falcons of Nigeria are the only African side to have secured any point after the first set of matches at the ongoing FIFA Women’s World Cup.
While the Nigerian ladies were able to force Canada to a barren draw, the trio of Zambia, South Africa and Morocco all suffered varying degrees of defeats.
With many predicting doom for the Falcons right from their first game, the Randy Waldrum girls are out to prove their critics wrong and they have started well with a hard-earned point against the reigning Olympic Champions.
Now the first game is done and dusted and next on the plate for Nigeria is another tough clash against co-host Australia on Thursday
The game billed for 11 am Nigerian time which is 8 pm on Wednesday in Australia is of great importance to both the Super Falcons and the Matildas.
Having secured a lone-goal win over debutant Northern Ireland, in their group opener, the Australians would be hoping to continue their good run with another win when they tackle the Super Falcons.
Aside from being more highly ranked than Nigeria, the Australia team will also be banking on the home crowd to propel them to victory and early qualification for the Round of 16.
While a win for Australia sends them to the round of 16 before their final group-stage game with Canada, Nigeria also needs to defeat the Matildas to keep them in good stead to progress into the round of 16 before their final group game with Northern Ireland.
Although the head-to-head record favours the Australians who defeated Nigeria when they met in the group stage of the 2015 World Cup, a lot has changed eight years after.
Interestingly some of the players in the 2015 team are very much around now but far more experienced than they were during the World Cup in Canada.
Onome Ebi, Osinachi Ohale, Halimatu Ayinde, Francisca Ordega, Desire Oparanozie and Asisat Oshoala all participated in the 2015 game.
Meanwhile, Australian players like Kerr Sam, Katrina Gorry and goalkeeper Lydia Williams were also part members of the team that defeated Nigeria 2-0.
For many, what played out in 2015 will have little or no effect on how things will pan out in Thursday’s Group B encounter.
Comparing both teams’ performance in their last five games, Australia and Nigeria are having a good run and either could snatch victory on Thursday.
The Matildas have won four of their last five games keeping clean sheets in them. One of the upsets was their 2-0 win over European Champions England during their friendly campaign last April.
Meanwhile, the Falcons have also been unbeaten in four out of their last five games.
The return of two regulars Halimatu Ayinde and Rasheedat Ajibade who were banned due to the red card they received in the WAFCON last year June against Morocco would be a big boost for Randy Waldrum who has lost Abiodun Deborah to the same card offence against Canada.
Another respite is the quick recovery of Desire Oparanozie who is primed to feature in Thursday’s clash.
But while Nigeria has all its mercenaries ready for the war scheduled for Thursday, Australia and Chelsea women forward Sam Kerr seems to be uncertain to play against the Falcons.
The Chelsea star limped off the pitch against Northern Ireland and her absence would certainly be felt by the Matildas who rely very much on her prowess.
Regardless of the sad news about Kerr’s injury, Aussie defender Charlie Grant has said they will deplore an effective strategy to cage the Falcons.
But captain Onome Ebi has said her teammates are not terrified of the capabilities of the Matildas ahead of Thursday’s clash.
She said: “It is interesting that they have an idea of how to play us. We also have our own idea of how to play them. It is a very crucial game for us and we will throw everything we have into it.”
“It is very important to us to collect the three points on Thursday. That will put us in a great position before we play the Irish.” Ebi added.
Despite finding themselves where many have dubbed the group of death, Ebi is positive the Super Falcons will navigate through the group stage as they aim for their best World Cup outing ever.
READ ALSO: Australia vs Nigeria Preview: Super Falcons seek to topple co-hosts in tricky World Cup clash
“Much more than money, it is a matter of pride. Of course, we will like the money. However, Nigeria comes first. We were in the quarter-finals in 1999 and that is a long time ago; we want to work to go far in this tournament. Last time, in France, we got to the Round of 16. We are looking beyond the group stage here.” Ebi assured
Where to see the game
Just like the first game, the Super Falcons’ can be watched on Supersport, Afrosport, and Blend TV. PREMIUM TIMES will also provide Live Updates from Thursday’s tie.
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