In what’s being hailed as the first significant upset of the Women’s World Cup, Nigeria outmatched Australia in an exciting 3-2 victory on Thursday, shaking up the tournament and leaving Australian fans, and indeed, the world, in stunned disbelief. This electrifying match has spotlighted Nigeria’s football prowess, as the team positioned themselves at the top of Group B.
In a thrilling showdown at Lang Park, which drew a massive crowd, Nigeria’s victory was a testament to their skill and tenacity. Asisat Oshoala, the famed striker, delivered a crushing blow to Australia by volleying into an open goal in the 72nd minute, clinching a well-deserved win for Nigeria.
This victory followed Uchenna Kanu’s equalizer against Emily van Egmond’s opener right at halftime, and Osinachi Ohale pushed Nigeria ahead after the break. Despite a late surge from Australia with Alanna Kennedy’s header in the 10th minute of stoppage time, Nigeria managed to hold on to their lead, producing a win that will be remembered as one of their greatest triumphs in the Women’s World Cup.
This stunning outcome has left Nigeria at the top of their group, level on points with Canada but ahead on goal difference. The 11-time African champions are set to play their final group match against Ireland, who have already been eliminated from the competition.
Meanwhile, in the Nigerian camp, spirits were high with the monumental win. Nigeria’s coach, Randy Waldrum, shared his team’s excitement in a post-match interview, saying that the changing room was filled with singing and dancing. Waldrum, an American, emphasized the strong belief and unity that held his team together despite many doubters.
Australia, the co-hosts of the tournament, now finds themselves in a precarious position. Their dreams of advancing to the last 16 and being among the major title contenders now hinge on defeating Olympic champions Canada, who previously drew 0-0 against Nigeria.
A series of unfortunate injuries including Sam Kerr and Mary Fowler saw a weakened Australian attack. Despite this, Australia’s forward line repeatedly assailed Nigeria’s goal, but a lack of precision saw multiple chances sail wide or overshoot the goalpost. The Australian coach, Tony Gustavsson, however, refused to lay blame on his team’s performance. Instead, he commended their efforts and suggested the game statistics did not reflect the outcome.
Despite Australia taking the lead just before halftime with Emily van Egmond’s goal from a Caitlin Foord cross, Nigeria quickly retaliated. An impressive setup by midfielder Rasheedat Ajibade resulted in a deflected shot finding its way to Uchenna Kanu, who seized the opportunity and scored the equalizer.
Coach Waldrum’s decision to bring his key striker, Oshoala, off the bench proved instrumental to Nigeria’s victory. Within just two minutes of entering the pitch, Nigeria gained the lead with an assist from Ajibade, resulting in Ohale scoring the goal.
Oshoala, in the 72nd minute, capitalized on a defensive error from Australia to volley in what would become the winning goal. Australia continued their offensive push with Alanna Kennedy scoring a late header, but it was not enough to turn the tide, and Nigeria celebrated a hard-fought victory.
This historic upset in the Women’s World Cup not only puts Nigeria in a favorable position for their last group match against Ireland but also sends a powerful message to the world of football about the caliber of Nigerian women’s football.