Nigeria’s Super Falcons are on a quest for a historic quarterfinal appearance at the FIFA Women’s World Cup as they face England in an exhilarating showdown early Monday morning.
Having finished as runners-up in Group B, the former African champions are set to clash with England, the Group D winners, in what promises to be an intense encounter. This marks Nigeria’s third appearance in the knockout stage and England’s fifth.
Making history at the Women’s World Cup, Nigeria are one of the three African nations, alongside South Africa and Morocco, to advance past the group stage for the first time.
The Falcons were undefeated during the group stage, securing a win and two draws.
Their journey began with a memorable goalless draw against Olympic champions Canada, followed by a thrilling 3-2 victory over co-hosts Australia on matchday two, thanks to goals from Uchenna Kanu, Osinachi Ohale, and Asisat Oshoala.
Although they missed the opportunity to top Group B, Nigeria clinched another goalless draw with Ireland in their last group match.
Now, the West African queens will lock horns with European champions, England, who finished top of Group D.
One of the best teams in the world, England have performed flawlessly at the 2023 World Cup, achieving a perfect record with three consecutive wins.
While they had two nervy 1-0 victories against Haiti and Denmark, their emphatic 6-1 win over China signaled a resurgence of their attacking prowess.
Their journey to the World Cup was marked by an impressive goal-scoring display, with 80 goals in 10 games during the qualifiers.
On their way to the UEFA Women’s Championship title, they continued their dominant form, scoring 22 goals in six games, including an 8-0 triumph over Norway, a 5-0 victory over Northern Ireland, and a 4-0 win over Sweden, along with narrow victories over Spain and Germany in the Final.
They will be pleased with a repeat of any of those performances against Nigeria.
Monday’s meeting is the second-ever encounter between England and Nigeria in World Cup history, with England securing a 3-2 victory in their first meeting in 1995.
However, the Super Falcons have triumphed in their two subsequent friendly games on English soil, winning 1-0 at Carrow Road in 2002 and 3-0 at the Madejski Stadium two years later.
Nigeria’s team news
Energetic midfielder Deborah Abiodun remains unavailable due to a three-match ban.
However, Desire Oparanozie has recovered from a slight knock and may feature in the match.
Barcelona striker Asisat Oshoala is back to full fitness and is expected to threaten the Lionesses’ defensive setup significantly.
The defensive midfield duo of Christy Ucheibe and Halimotu Ayinde will play a crucial role in providing a solid shield in the centre of the park.
England’s team news
Injured influential star Keira Walsh has passed a late fitness test, but she may not be in the starting lineup.
Her absence did not hinder England’s commanding performance against China, though.
The team’s fluidity against the Chinese, led by wing-backs Lucy Bronze and Rachel Daly, allowed Lauren James to shine with her exceptional talent and vision in a free-roaming role within the formation.
Possible starting lineups
Nigeria (4-2-3-1): Nnadozie; Alozie, Ohale, Demehin, Plumptre; Ucheibe, Ayinde; Ajibade, Payne, Kanu; Oshoala.
England (3-4-1-2): Earps; Carter, Bright, Greenwood; Bronze, Stanway, Zelem, Daly; James; Hemp, Russo.
What have they said?
Karen Carney (former Arsenal and Chelsea midfielder capped 144 times by England):
“She (Oshoala) is a top-quality striker who is more than capable of pulling something out of the bag.
“I expect Nigeria will have big expectations and big hopes, so we can’t rest on our laurels.
“Despite how good England were against China, Nigeria are a top nation that will cause us problems. They have a world-class striker and individual players that will be difficult for us.
“They are fighters and they fear no one.”
Falcons’ assistant coach Terry Eguaoje:
“We don’t underestimate those (England) ladies. They are very, very good.
“It will be a question of us identifying and exploiting their weaknesses while working to limit our own weaknesses and taking advantage of our strengths.
“We know they have some dangerous players, and we will account for them in our strategy. But they know we also have dangerous players too, so they will also have to be careful how they come at us.”
Competition: FIFA Women’s World Cup
Stage: Round of 16
Match: Nigeria vs England
Venue: Brisbane Stadium, Brisbane
Date: Monday, August 7
Time: 8.30 am (Nigerian time)