Despite battling several off-field distractions before the World Cup, the Super Falcons produced a solid display to claim a crucial point against Olympic gold medallist Canada.
Here are five takeaways from that encounter.
Demehin is ready to take over from Ebi
Head coach Randy Waldrum decided to start 21-year-old Tosin Demehin ahead of veteran Onome Ebi, and it was an inspired decision.
The youngster slotted nicely beside Osinachi Ohale and kept Nigeria’s defence watertight at the back.
Despite making her debut on the biggest stage in women’s football, she was near-flawless all through. Thumbs up to Ohale for helping the younger defender.
And on the back of Demehin’s display, it is time to say a big thank you to Ebi and send her on her way to a much-deserved retirement.
Ucheibe is a beast
Christy Ucheibe promised ahead of the game to give her best at her first appearance in a World Cup, and girl, did she?
She was, by some distance, Nigeria’s best player in the opening half and probably in the entire encounter.
Marshalled the midfield, defended astutely, fought for every ball, touched every blade of grass on that pitch, and gave the Super Falcons a chance against the reigning Olympic champions.
No one comes close to deserving that Woman of the Match award, not even penalty-saving Chaimaka Nnadozie.
Oshoala needs better service in attack
Five-time Africa Player of the Year, Asisat Oshoala is Nigeria’s best star for a reason – she knows how to stick the ball in the back of the net.
But Toni Payne, Francesca Ordega, and Ify Onumonu did little to supply the Barcelona striker with the ammunition she needed to do damage. Not enough balls came from them to her, leaving her chasing crumbs all night.
Granted Canada’s defence kept Oshoala under watch. But the one time there was a mix-up in the Canadian backline, Oshoala was there and came close to capitalise.
Waldrum would do well to look for ways for the team to serve Oshoala better in subsequent games, starting with Australia.
Chiamaka Nnadozie is the best goalkeeper in the world
Okay, maybe not exactly. But the Paris FC shot-stopper has to be somewhere close to the top.
22-year-old Nnadozie captained the Super Falcons for the first time in a World Cup match, yet she performed like a veteran with 30 years of experience.
Her big moment in the match was saving Christine Sinclair’s penalty. But several other saves, claims from crosses, and punches from corner kicks lend credence to her top rating.
Abiodun is the best alternative to Ngozi Okobi
A lot of eyebrows were raised when coach Waldrum decided to leave out Ngozi Okobi-Okeoghene from the Super Falcons squad for the World Cup.
But Deborah Abiodun delivered a monstrous performance in midfield that justified her inclusion.
Strong, energetic, and stubborn, she was always on hand to help the defence and was one of the main reasons Canada’s best player, Christine Sinclair, was nullified.
She was shown a red card later on for a reckless challenge, but it takes nothing away from her excellent display. Sorry, Ngozi, but thanks to Debby, you were not missed.
Aside from Abiodun, there were several other top individual performances. Nothing went past Michelle Alozie at right-back following another dominant display from the defender. Plumptre deserves a pat on the back. Same as Osinachi and Toni Payne.
Next target, Australia.