In a scintillating display of skill and determination, Nigeria’s Super Falcons secured a hard-fought 3-2 victory against co-host nation Australia in a thrilling encounter at Lang Park on Thursday evening.
With the stadium adorned by 49,156 enthusiastic spectators, the African giants claimed a historic win, marking Africa’s first triumph at the ongoing FIFA Women’s World Cup and bolstering their chances of progressing to the Round of 16 in what has been hailed as the biggest-ever tournament in history.
Coach Randy Waldrum made some strategic decisions, opting to start with Rasheedat Ajibade and Halimatu Ayinde, along with Ifeoma Onumonu and Uchenna Kanu.
Surprisingly, the formidable Asisat Oshoala, who plies her trade with Barcelona Feminine, began the match on the bench.
The early stages of the game saw the Matildas stamping their authority, applying immense pressure and keeping the Super Falcons confined to their own half. Goalkeeper Chiamaka Nnadozie, the hero of Nigeria’s first match against Canada, was once again called into action, showcasing her shot-stopping prowess as the co-hosts showed no signs of missing their regular stars, including captain Sam Kerr and defender Mary Fowler.
As the first half neared its end, the arena erupted into a frenzy when Emily Van Egmond found herself in a perfect position to deftly toe-poke the ball past Nnadozie, giving Australia the lead in added time.
Undeterred, the Super Falcons displayed their resilience, equalizing just four minutes later. Uchenna Kanu demonstrated impressive awareness and composure, slotting home a well-placed ball from Rasheedat Ajibade’s deflected cross.
The second half witnessed an intense battle, with both teams launching threatening shots towards each other’s goal. It was Nigeria, however, who found the breakthrough in the 65th minute. Defender Osinachi Ohale capitalized on Ajibade’s header, forcing the ball over the line to give Nigeria the lead.
Moments later, substitute Asisat Oshoala proved to be the game-changer. Taking advantage of a defensive mishap, Oshoala pounced on a ball headed past the onrushing goalkeeper, effortlessly slotting it into an empty net with a clinical volley. This historic goal not only sealed the victory for Nigeria but also etched Oshoala’s name in the record books as the first African player to score in three FIFA World Cup finals, having previously found the net in Canada in 2015 and France in 2019.
Despite Australia’s late resurgence with Alanna Kennedy finding the back of the net from a corner kick in added time, Nigeria’s Nnadozie held her ground, making crucial saves to secure the win.
The match also witnessed Nigeria’s captain, Onome Ebi, making history as the African player with the most appearances in FIFA World Cup tournaments. Ebi, who featured in her sixth World Cup finals, continues to be a stalwart presence for her team.
With this impressive victory, Nigeria now sits atop Group B, bolstering their chances of advancing to the knockout stages. Canada, who secured a win over the Republic of Ireland, follows closely in second place with four points, while Australia trails in third with three points.
The Super Falcons now face the Republic of Ireland, who have already been eliminated, in their final group game. A draw in that match will be sufficient for Nigeria to progress, regardless of the outcome in the other fixture between Australia and Canada. As the excitement continues to build, football fans around the world eagerly anticipate more thrilling encounters and unforgettable moments in the pursuit of World Cup glory.