As the only African nation to have appeared in all nine editions of the FIFA Women’s World Cup, many place the continent’s hopes firmly on the shoulders of this Nigerian side. With the Super Falcons handed a difficult group, they’d look to get off to a winning start with three points against Canada.
NGA: Nnadozie; Ohale, Plumptre, Demehin, Alozie; Abiodun, Ucheibe; Ordega, Payne, Onumonu; Oshoala
CAN: Sheridan; Riviere, Gilles, Buchanan, Lawrence; Grosso, Quinn; Rose, Sinclair, Huitema; Leon
Despite Canada’s early dominance throughout the opening stages of this match, Nigeria quickly grew into the game and were able to match their opponents stride for stride – with Onumonu forcing a fantastic save from Sheridan on 20 minutes.
Canada had enjoyed a handful of chances prior to that Nigerian effort, including a Sinclair strike that flew high and wide of the woodwork. Failing to bury their early opportunities looked as though it would come back to bite them, as a spectacular mistake from Sheridan provided Oshoala with a half-chance from a difficult angle – but the Barça star wasn’t able to locate a teammate in support.
Yet despite another great chance for Canada to take the lead through Adriana Leon’s cross into the area, the match remained goalless heading into half-time – as had been the case in both of the Day One fixtures.
The second half certainly didn’t lack action, with the referee called to the pitchside monitor after just two minutes to review a potential penalty offence against Ordega. Lena Lehtovaara opted to reverse her initial decision and award Canada a chance from the spot – though Christie Sinclair was denied with a robust save from Nnadozie.
Viens looked to have an immediate impact from the bench, flicking an effort goalwards from close range – but yet another impressive save from Nnadozie denied Canada, who simply couldn’t find a way past the ‘keeper.
Canada benefitted from a flurry of chances deep into eight minutes of stoppage time – but throughout for large parts of the second half, it was Nigeria that looked likeliest to score, though Sheridan’s impressive goalkeeping ensured that Bev Priestman’s side remained level.
The drama was far from over though, with Deborah Abiodum dismissed in the 97th minute following a pitchside review of a dreadfully mistimed challenge. The midfielder’s tackle was utterly reckless, and Lehtovaara was left with no choice but to upgrade her initial yellow card to a straight red.
Both sides had to settle for a point apiece, with Chiamaka Nnadozie’s sensational stint between the sticks being the standout performance of the match. The ‘keeper formed an impenetrable final line of defence, keeping the Super Falcons in contention for much of the match.