Nigeria came into this game knowing that a draw would see the African outfit through to the knockout stages for the second successive World Cup, with a win potentially securing top spot in Group B. Ireland came into the game already eliminated – however the Irish always play with pride and were hoping to end their maiden World Cup appearance with a win.
Both nations believe that defence is the key to victory – and Ireland understood the need to limit space in behind to nullify the Super Falcons’ pace in the forward line, as the Africans look to score their first World Cup goal against European opposition.
NGA: Nnadozie, Alozie, Ohale, Demehin, Plumptre, Ucheibe, Ayinde, Ajibade, Payne, Kanu, Oshoala
IRL: Brosnan, Payne, Fahey, Quinn, Connolly, McCabe, O’Sullivan, Littlejohn, Agg, Farrelly, Carusa
Ireland started the first half with intent; the Girls In Green wanted to end their campaign with a bang and came close to getting that explosive start within the first five minutes, as Katie McCabe dragged her shot just wide of Chiamaka Nnadozie’s goal.
The Irish were pressing higher than in their previous two fixtures against Australia and Canada, with this Irish energy bringing about some panic in the Nigerian defence as they looked to clear their lines to escape the unrelenting waves of attack – resulting in the Irish having greater possession. However, the European team did not make the most of this, as they created very little in terms of clear chances with Nigeria seemingly unphased once the Irish had control of possession as Vera Pauw’s side lacked ideas on how to break down the Africans.
Despite offering very little, Nigeria had the best chance in the first half. The Super Falcons latched onto a poor pass by Louise Quinn – and Asisat Oshoala was played through towards goal and looked for all the world that she would score past Courtney Brosnan, however the FC Barcelona striker placed her shot wide of the target.
The second half started with a change in impetus from the Nigerians, as they moved onto the front foot. The Super Falcons started to increase their share of possession and ask questions of the Irish defence – and this change in intent culminated in the African side forcing Brosnan into producing the finest save of the tournament thus far. A fine header by Uchenna Kanu followed a dangerous cross by Toni Payne was pushed onto the bar by the Irish ‘keeper, bringing about a rapturous applause from the fans supporting Vera Pauw’s side.
As the second half wore on, the seismic effort of the Irish continued but the side did inevitably tire – allowing the Nigerians to create a number of half chances. These were dealt with well by the Irish, with the team willing to fight for every ball and throw their bodies on the line if required.
Following this small attacking surge in the second half from the Nigerians, they looked comfortable to settle for the draw once play resumed after a stoppage to allow Chiamaka Nnadozie and Kyra Carusa to receive treatment following a clash. This mentality shift allowed the Irish to finish the game strongly, and push for a winning goal. However, as they had done throughout the competition, the Girls In Green lacked that creative spark to trouble their opposition.
As the final whistle blew, Nigeria secured their knockout place with this goalless draw. The Super Falcons will move into this fixture knowing that they will play the winners of Group D in Brisbane on August 7, with kick-off at 8:30am UK time.
The Irish, however, are on a plane home to Dublin. They will be disappointed to be heading home this early – as the team failed to win, but will be proud of their effort and performances throughout their first World Cup. The team have made history by being the first Irish women’s team to qualify for the World Cup – and they have added to that by gaining their first ever point in the competition with this draw against Nigeria.