A 0-0 draw with the ‘Girls in Green’ at Brisbane’s Lang Park on Monday, coupled with Australia’s 4-0 demolition of Olympic champions Canada in Melbourne, shot Nigeria to the Round of 16 of the ongoing 9th FIFA Women’s World Cup finals in Down Under.
Asisat Oshoala, who scored Nigeria’s third and winning goal against the Aussies at the same venue on Thursday, paving the way for Nigeria’s passage to the knock-out rounds, missed a glorious opportunity in the 14th minute, but the Falcons were never really threatened in a largely cagey affair watched by over 24,000 spectators.
The feat means Nigeria is the first African country to have reached the World Cup knockout rounds in two successive finals, and have also done so, as a record of their own, without losing a game in the group phase.
Needing only a point from the game to reach the Round of 16, the Falcons took things easy, playing with caution against an Irish team that needed to salvage some pride after two losses and with a ticket back home on their palms.
There was little to choose between both teams. Nigeria escaped when Chiamaka Nnadozie punched the ball onto the crossbar from a corner kick by the Irish in the 9th minute, and the opponents also escaped when goalie Courtney Brosnan punched onto the bar and to safety a firm header by Uchenna Kanu off a cross by Toni Payne in the 52nd minute.
The scoreless encounter, alongside Australia’s win, meant the Matildas emerged first in Group B and will play the second-placed team in Group D, while the Super Falcons finished as runners-up and will confront the top team in Group D, most likely to be England. The Group D final log will be decided on Tuesday evening.
It also means that the Falcons will remain in Brisbane, to welcome the top team in Group D, while Australia’s Matildas will fly to Sydney for their own game. The match will hold on Monday, 7th August.