Nigeria’s Super Falcons, yesterday, advanced to the round of 16 at the ongoing FIFA Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, after a 0-0 draw with Republic of Ireland. The Falcons finished unbeaten in their Group B, a first-ever for an African team at the FIFA Women’s World Cup.
The 0-0 draw against the ‘Girls in Green’ at Brisbane’s Lang Park means the Super Falcons will face either England or Denmark in their Round of 16 encounter on August 7. The Nigerians could also face China.
England, who currently top Group D with six points, will face China in their final group match today, needing a draw to confirm their headship of the park. China are third in the group with three points.
On the other hand, Denmark will take on debutantes, Haiti, in their final group encounter. A win for Denmark would see them as Group D’s second best team, provided China did not beat England with wider margin.
All the two Group D matches will kickoff simultaneously by 12.00 noon (WAT) today. The Super Falcons, who are nine-time African champions, began with a goalless draw against Olympic champions, Canada on July 21; defeated co-host nation, Australia 3-2 on July 27, before they played out a scoreless match against Ireland, yesterday.
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 an exit ticket already on their palms.
The Falcons were never really threatened in a largely cagey affair watched by over 24,000 spectators. Asisat Oshoala, who scored Nigeria’s third and winning goal against the co-host, Australia, at the same venue on Thursday, had missed a glorious opportunity in the 14th minute.
There was little to choose between both teams. Nigeria escaped conceding a goal, when Chiamaka Nnadozie punched the ball onto the crossbar from a corner kick by the Irish in the ninth minute, and the Irish 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.
It also means that the Super 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, August 7.
Meanwhile, Secretary-General of world football-governing body (FIFA), Ms. Fatma Samoura, has commended the Super Falcons for reaching the Round of 16, saying their feat has brought joy to women’s football as a whole with their elegance and self-assuredness on the pitch, as well as African women football and the African girl-child.
“I must say that personally, I am proud of you. As you know, I am the first woman to be Secretary General of FIFA since the organisation was founded in 1904, and I am also an African. So, I am easily excited by any accomplishment that glorifies women’s football and African football,” Samoura said, as she addressed the Super Falcons at the dressing room after the match at Lang Park.
Samoura said the performance of the Falcons is a terrific inspiration to other African teams at the tournament.
“You have won one match here, as Morocco and Zambia, but you are the only team that has made it to the knock-out stage yet. I am also excited because when FIFA President, Gianni Infantino, announced my name as the new FIFA Secretary-General, I was in Nigeria working for the United Nations. So, Nigeria is a second home for me.
“You should continue to believe in yourselves and play as a team, and be ready to lift the African flag higher in this tournament.” Also, Gelson Fernandes, the Director for Africa at FIFA, who is a former Swiss international player, urged the Super Falcons to retain their self-belief and be ready to confront and surmount every obstacle on their way to the final.