Following the dramatic showdown at the FIFA Women’s World Cup Australia and New Zealand 2023 round of 16 tie, England’s head coach, Sarina Wiegman, has showered accolades upon Nigeria for their valiant display that pushed the Lionesses to their limits, Soccernet.ng reports.
The pre-match odds favoured European champions England against the former African champions, Nigeria.
Yet, as the contest unfolded at the Suncorp Stadium, it was Nigeria that showcased a sharper offensive stance, controlling the momentum for a significant part of the 90-minute bout. The match concluded with a deadlock, with neither side able to secure a lead.
England’s fortunes took a hit during regular time, as star forward Lauren James was shown a red card for a stamp on Michelle Alozie, leaving them with ten players on the field.
The ensuing extra time saw both teams remaining goalless, ultimately leading to a tense penalty shootout. England maintained their composure, emerging victorious with a score of 4-2 in the shootout.
Addressing the media in the post-match press conference, Coach Wiegman expressed unwavering confidence in her team’s performance while commending Nigeria for their standout performance throughout the World Cup campaign.
She emphasized the intensity of the game, dismissing concerns over England’s display.
“I’m not worried (about the performance); it was a really intense game,” remarked Wiegman.
Acknowledging Nigeria’s prowess, Wiegman stated, “They showed tonight what a good team they have; they were very well-organized, very physical, very athletic, pressed high, and we had trouble getting out of that press.”
She admitted that although there was room for improvement, Nigeria’s resilience and tactical execution deserved recognition.
“We could do a little better, but you have to give them the credit for how well they got back after we did get out of that first press and kept the ball and created chances. They did really well,” Wiegman said.
Highlighting Nigeria’s adaptability, Wiegman emphasized their effective transition play.
“The game was equal, and they were very transitional, so at moments where we lost the ball, they were really quick,” she noted.
The departure of Lauren James prompted England to alter their strategy, dropping deeper with ten players.
Wiegman observed, “When LJ (Lauren James) went out, we dropped deeper with ten players, and they had to make the game a little more, but they struggled a bit.”
Nigeria’s remarkable performance in the encounter marks a significant milestone for the Super Falcons, as they achieved the unprecedented feat of not losing a match in regulation time at the FIFA Women’s World Cup for the first time in their history.