As Nigeria confronts England in the Round of 16 match of the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Brisbane, Australia, on Monday, August 7, there is no better time than now for Nigeria to extract a revenge on England after the Three Lionesses defeated the Super Falcons 3-2 in both teams’ first-ever FIFA Women’s World Cup meeting in 1995.
It is exactly 28 years and two months when Nigeria was defeated in the final Group B match played on June 10, 1995 at Tingvalla IP, Karlstad in front of a mere 1,843 spectators who watched from the one-sided stadium in Southern Sweden.
England goals had come from star-forwards: Karen Walker (27′) and Karen Farley (10′, 38′) while Nigeria’s two goals came from striker Adaku Okoroafor (13′) and winger Rita Nwadike (74′).
By the time center referee Ingrid Jonsson of Sweden ended the match, Nigeria crashed out of the competition as England qualified from the group behind Norway.
With Nigeria’s assistant coach, Ann Agumanu-Chienine, who was in goal for the Super Falcons team that lost to the Three Lionesses in Sweden, the only one who can remember that match, every other member of the Nigeria squad is oblivious of how intense the encounter between Nigeria and England used to be.
Since that time both countries have not met again in the World Cup and alot of water has passed under bridge with each evolving in different ways and with contrasting fortunes in the biggest women’s football competition in the world.
While Nigeria’s best finish in the World Cup has been the quarter-final exit in 1999, no thanks to the better forgotten “Golden Goal Rule”, England has finished in the 4th Place in 2019 in France.
Also, England ranked No.4 in the FIFA World power ranking coming into this competition has changed the technical crew that led the team to France and brought in more experienced gaffer in Dutchwoman Sarina Wiegman who has delivered UEFA Women’s Championship trophy and the intercontinental cup after defeated Brazil in London last year.
For Nigeria ranked 40 in world, her performance in the Mundial since 1995 has been anything but impressive, safe for the 1999 feat under veteran Head Coach Ismaila Mabo, Nigeria has only made it to the Round of 16 only in 2019 in France under Thomas Dennerby of Sweden and 2023 under American coach Randy Waldrum.
In Australia, Nigeria has not lost a game after grinding out two barren draws and a 3-2 victory over co-host Australia in the second game of Group B, scoring three goals and conceding two in the process to finish second behind Australia to meet England in Round of 16.
Waldrum and his players have been having rave reviews in the media, talking with all air of confidence that nobody back home in Nigeria gave them a chance to do well in the ongoing competition but they have exceeded expectations.
Perhaps, it is this good run of the nine-time African champions that has attracted the interest of the world and they have to use the match against England to further prove that they can equal the quarter-final record of the Super Falcons Class of 1999 in USA.
But Super Falcons will have the star-studded England Three Lionesses to contend with if the result of England’s last group match on August 1 against China was anything to rely upon. England went goal-crazy hammering China 6-1 at Hindmarsh Stadium, Adelaide.
A brace from rising star Lauren James 41′, 65′ and one each from Russo 4′, Hemp 26′, Kelly 77′ and
Daly 84′ ensured that England top Group D with maximum points after beating Haiti and Denmark by a lone each.
Having reached the business end of the competition after a slow start and seeing that the high-ranked countries like Spain, Japan, Netherlands and Sweden have all qualified for the quarter-final stage, England will play a “Game of Death” against the dangerous Africans.
This is why the epic clash on Monday between Nigeria and England has elicited much interest across the globe and both countries will like get something from the match as any failure will mean the loser will crash out of the competition.
Truly, the match will be won by the team with superior match tactics and it will be a good stage to know between Sarina Wiegman and Randy Waldrum whose tactical prowess will be enough to carry his or her team over the line.
It will be very difficult to predict the winner but pedigree has alot to offer hence the better side on the day and with a little bit of mother luck will carry the day.
Let fireworks begin.