The Super Falcons kicked off their campaign in the 7th FIFA Women’s World Cup with a fascinating 3-3 draw with Sweden in Winnipeg on Monday.
Playing an eye-catching attacking game, the African champions, aware of the presence of NFF President Amaju Pinnick and some NFF Executive Committee members in the stands, made it clear from kick-off that they were not at the match to watch the Europeans play, and the runs of African Woman Player of the Year, Asisat Oshoala down the Swedes’ right was full of verve.
However, 2003 World Cup runners-up Sweden got in front against the run of play when Nigerian forward Desire Oparanozie chested the ball into her own net while trying to defend a corner kick, and the situation looked to get worse when Fischer stroked in a second when another corner kick put the Nigerian defence in knots.
Yet, the Falcons always looked sharp on the onslaught, and Oshoala should have cut the deficit when she raced clear on the right and shot to the right of the Swedish goal-tender.
The story changed after the restart, with Nigeria becoming more clinical, and it was no surprise when the Live Your Goal Player of the Match, Ngozi Okobi, intelligently controlled a pass inside the box and stroked home to make it 2-1.
The Falcons were now in the ascendancy and Oshoala, also the BBC Women’s Footballer of the Year and Most Valuable Player of the FIFA U-20 World Cup also held in Canada last year, raced on to a brilliant Ordega pass to slot past the Swedish goalie for 2-2.
Few minutes later, the Nigerian defence caved in again, but the Falcons were not at the Investors Group Field to lie down and got a deserved equalizer when Okobi’s sublime pass sent Ordega clear for a slot past the goalkeeper for 3-3.
Just as it ended when both teams played their first match against each other in China eight years ago, a draw was the result, with one point each earned. And as it happened eight years ago, the Falcons will play one more match at this same venue before changing venue for their last group phase match against the USA.
In 2007, North Korea was the opponent in Chengdu. The Falcons lost 2-0, before flying to Shanghai to play USA. This year, the opposition will be Australia in Winnipeg, before the African champions fly to Vancouer to meet the Americans.
Victory over Australia on Friday will automatically guarantee the Falcons a place in the Round of 16, ahead of their clash with USA in Vancouver next week Tuesday.
Veteran analyst and commentator, Colin Udoh, compared Monday’s performance against the Swedes to the Super Falcons’ battling performance against Brazil in the quarter -finals of the 1999 finals in USA. In that match, the Nigerians came back from 0-3 down in the first half to equalize, only to lose 3-4 in extra time.
“This performance certainly ranks with that one as Nigeria’s best showing at the FIFA Women’s World Cup till date,” Udoh said.