The 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup starts with a thrilling encounter between Nigeria and Canada.
The Olympic champions, Canada, stand 33 places above Nigeria in the FIFA rankings, making them heavy favourites for the opener.
However, the Super Falcons are determined not to be underestimated.
The 11-time African champions have qualified for every World Cup.
However, despite their impressive qualifications, they have only made it past the group stage twice and reached the quarterfinals once in 1999.
With only four wins in 26 World Cup games, they face a tough challenge ahead.
Canada, on the other hand, boast eight appearances in the World Cup. Their best performance saw them reach the semifinals in 2003, but they faltered in their first knockout stage game four years ago.
Head to Head
In previous encounters, Canada have had the upper hand with two wins in five meetings, both in friendlies.
However, it is a different ball game at the World Cup. Nigeria have not lost to the Canadians in two previous meetings.
The Super Falcons held Canada to a 3-3 draw in their first World Cup match in 1995. In the 2011 edition, Nigeria secured a 1-0 victory with Perpetua Nkwocha’s 84th-minute goal.
Team news – Canada
Canada’s starting lineup should remain mostly unchanged from their 2021 Olympic gold medal triumph, except for Janine Beckie’s unfortunate absence due to an ACL injury.
The forward’s absence puts pressure on Adriana Leon, Nichelle Prince, and 22-year-old Jordyn Huitema. The talented winger, Jessie Fleming, is expected to make an impact as well.
Off-field, Canada face legal disputes regarding equitable opportunities with its federation, but their recent Olympic success makes them formidable opponents.
Team news – Nigeria
Nigeria have also been in the headlines before the competition, dealing with disputes involving equity with its federation. Rumours of a potential boycott were rife, but captain Onome Ebi has denied such claims.
The team’s manager, Randy Waldrum, has been involved in a public battle with the Nigeria Football Federation, creating off-field distractions.
Nevertheless, the players remain focused and prepared for the challenges ahead.
Players to watch
For Nigeria, Asisat Oshoala leads the front line with an outstanding track record at Spanish giants Barcelona and multiple African Women’s Footballer of the Year awards.
Goalkeeper Chiamaka Nnadozie is a rising star, and veteran defender Onome Ebi is set to make history as the first African player to feature in six World Cups.
Canada’s team is captained by veteran Christine Sinclair, who holds a remarkable record of 190 international goals – the most by any soccer player in history.
Goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan and midfielder Jessie Fleming add strength and stability to the team.
Competition: 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup
Game: Nigeria vs. Canada
Date: Friday, July 21
Venue: Melbourne Rectangular Stadium, Melbourne
Kickoff time: 3:30 am (Nigerian time)
With Canada’s Olympic triumph fresh in their minds, they enter the World Cup as strong contenders.
Nigeria, despite their struggles at past tournaments, possess a resilient spirit. While Canada are the favourites, counting out the Super Falcons could be a mistake.
Expect an intense battle on the field as both teams vie for a victorious start to their World Cup campaigns.
Tip: full-time draw