Nigeria and Canada, who have met twice at the FIFA Women’s World previously, will open their account for this ninth edition of women’s football’s greatest showpiece when they clash at the Melbourne Rectangular Stadium on Friday.
The Super Falcons’ delegation departed from their base – Hotel Sofitel in Brisbane – on Thursday morning, for the 100-minute flight to Melbourne, oozing confidence and a determination to sustain their impressive record against the Canadians on the biggest stage.
In their first FIFA World Cup meeting, in Sweden on 8 June 1995, both teams played out a 3-3 draw at the Olympia in Helsingborg, with Nigeria’s goals coming from Rita Nwadike, Patience Avre, and Adaku Okoroafor. This was after Canada had stomped to a 2-0 lead within 20 minutes. Both teams were eliminated at the group stage.
They met again in Germany in 2011 when Perpetua Nkwocha’s 73rd-minute goal made the difference at the Rudolf-Harbig Stadium in Dresden. Again, both teams were eliminated.
Canada had beaten the Super Falcons twice in friendlies before their latest encounter – a 2-2 draw in Victoria City in February 2022.
However, Friday, 20 July 2023 is a new day with lots of promises for both teams, with the Canadian girls carrying a big markup as reigning Olympic champions and having five players in their ranks with more than 100 caps at the international level: Christine Sinclair, Sophie Schmidt, Kadeisha Buchanan, Ashley Lawrence, and Jessie Fleming.
Sinclair is both the world’s record international caps holder (323) and record international scorer (190). At 40, she is attending her sixth Women’s World Cup finals.
Canada’s best performance at the Women’s World Cup was in 2003 when they lost the bronze medal match to hosts USA. When they hosted the competition eight years ago, they were bundled out by the USA in the quarter-finals.
The Super Falcons, who had a 15-day final training camp in Gold Coast ahead of this tournament, are in excellent spirit, having won their last four matches and brimming with an awesome winning mentality.
Most recently, they defeated the Queensland Lions FC 8-1 in Brisbane, after wins over Costa Rica (Mexico, February) and Haiti and New Zealand (Turkey, April).
The Super Falcons reached the quarter-finals of the FIFA Women’s World Cup in 1999, coming close to the semi-finals after drawing 3-3 in regulation time, before losing on the golden goal rule.
In captain Onome Ebi, Nigeria has already scored a first at this World Cup. She is the oldest player at this competition, at 40 (35 days older than Sinclair), and is attending her sixth FIFA World Cup as well. She made her debut as a substitute during the game against the USA in 2003.
Nigeria will miss the services of key midfielders Rasheedat Ajibade and Halimatu Ayinde, who were sent off during the second half of Nigeria’s semi-final clash with Morocco at last year’s Women AFCON, and handed two-match bans. They served one of the bans in the third-place game against Zambia days after.
“We look forward to an interesting match. Super Falcons will not bother about any team’s pedigree at this World Cup. In each of our matches, we will play to win,” team captain Onome Ebi told thenff.com.