Again, Nigeria’s Super Falcons delivered another woeful performance as they slumped 0-3 to former champions, Norway in their opening Group A encounter on Saturday night at the on-going 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup in France.
In a group that saw host nation France getting their World Cup campaign off to a flying start with a 4-0 thrashing of South Korea, the Super Falcons were disappointing on all fronts as the Norwegians ran riot with three first half goals.
Doing most of their job in the first half without much of a challenge from the African opponents, Guro Reiten was first to the ball as she delivered from the corner for Norway’s first goal in the 17th minute.
A strike from Lisa-Marie Utland in the 33rd minute put Norway up 2-0. And few minutes later, an own goal from Nigeria’s Osinachi Ohale gave Norway a 3-0 lead in the 37 minute.
The Norwegians were fantastic on the day and finishing the game as deserving 3-0 winners did a lot of credit to their free-flowing football.
Leaving up to their boasts in the pre-match interviews that they will be all out to score goals in the encounter, the Europeans once again exposed Super Falcons’ notorious defensive frailties.
It was a great piece of work by Norway, who after dominating the first half, resumed that trend well into the second, leaving Nigeria very little time to come up with anything of note.
Though several opportunities later presented themselves in the final 30 minutes for Nigeria, Asisat Oshoala, in particular, will regret missing two chances in as many minutes that could have gotten her side on the score-sheet, and potentially back into the match.
On balance though, the Scandinavians were the better side and the score-line clearly reflected that honour.
The result also proved an important signposting for Norway as they prepare to battle hosts France in their second group game, which will not only be terrific to watch, but looks set to present a far greater challenge than Nigeria.
As for the Super Falcons, their next match comes against South Korea and, they certainly must go for victory or risk departing from the tournament in the group stage for the fifth consecutive time.
Ranked No. 12 in the world, Norway has qualified for every FIFA Women’s World Cup since the tournament commenced. They were runners up to the US in 1991 and winners of the 1995 championship.
Nigeria has also qualified for every FIFA Women’s World Cup. But the No. 38 ranked ‘Super Falcons’ have only advanced beyond the group stage once in 1993, falling to Brazil in the Quarter-finals.
Meanwhile, it was also a bad outing for Africa’s other representatives, South Africa as they were beaten 3-1 by Spain.
Though South Africa struck first in the 25th minute, thanks to a curler from Hembi Kgatlana, Spain responded in the 69th minute with a penalty kick from forward Jennifer Hermoso.
A second penalty kick from Hermoso in the 82nd minute put Spain up 2-1. Seven minutes later, Lucia Garcia scored her first international goal that effectively the match beyond the African representatives.
It was South Africa’s first Women’s World Cup appearance and the team came in as an underdog with a poor record of not having won a match this year.
Led by Hermoso, the 2019 outing marks Spain’s second appearance in the Women’s World Cup. They were knocked out of the group stage in 2015, only scoring two goals in their one draw and two losses.
Interestingly, Saturday’s night game was the team’s first victory at the Women’s World Cup fiesta.
In another match of the day, former Champions, Germany grinded out a 1-0 win over China in Group B.
Midfielder Giulia Gwinn scored the game’s only goal to give her country a winning start in the competition.
China midfielder Lou Jiahui left early with an injury and was replaced by Tan Ruyin. Germany had several chances to score but couldn’t secure another goal until the final whistle.
With the match tempo ebbing as proceedings wore on, both teams seem to be increasingly frustrated given their inability to make any headway.
The Germans have participated in every single FIFA Women’s World cup, carting home the trophy in 2003 and 2007. They however fell to the US ladies in the semi-final confrontation at the 2015 tournament.
China is ranked No 16 in the world. The 1999 runners-up are led by veteran forward Ma Xiaoxu, who has 61 goals in 152 appearances.
They have faced Germany 30 times in international matches and only winning a paltry eight of those ties. – With agency reports