Nigeria defeat co-hosts to move into top spot in Group B alongside Canada. Australia fall to third place.
Nigeria have stunned Australia 3-2 to claim one of their biggest wins in a Women’s World Cup and also leave the co-hosts’ tournament hopes on thin ice.
A crowd of nearly 50,000 people gathered in Brisbane Stadium on Thursday with most there hoping to see Australia seal a place in the knockout stages.
Things started well for the home side as Emily van Egmond gave them the lead in the first minute of first-half injury time after a dominant performance. But Uchenna Kanu quickly evened out the score before half-time, and Osinachi Ohale nudged Nigeria ahead after the break.
Barcelona forward Asisat Oshoala, who came on as a second-half substitute, swooped in on a defensive mix-up in the 72nd minute and beat three Australians to the ball, sneaking a right foot inside the near post from a tight angle to widen Nigeria’s lead. She peeled off her jersey and ran to the sideline to celebrate, getting a yellow card in the process.
Australia then threw everything they had at Nigeria, managing to cut the deficit to one goal when Alanna Kennedy nodded home a header in the 10th minute of stoppage time.
But Nigeria rode out the final seconds to move into a share of first place in Group B with Canada. Both have four points from two games, one more than Australia. The 11-time African champions will play eliminated Ireland in their last group match.
‘Nigeria for life’
“Everyone went out to play their heart out,” Oshoala said after the game. “This team has a lot to offer, and the world has seen that today.”
“I want to fight for this badge – this is, you know, the best country in the world. Nigeria for life!”
Randy Waldrum, Nigeria’s manager, said he was “so proud” of his players.
“I told them after the match no one believes in us apart from us and we had that belief together we could accomplish great things, and we did that tonight.”
Waldrum also reserved some praise for his star forward: “I told Oshoala before the match that I needed her to give us the last 30 minutes. I felt very strongly she was going to get a goal, and she got the game-winning goal, so extremely proud of the effort.”
For their part, the Matildas missed a golden chance to reach the last 16 and now must beat Olympic champions Canada in Melbourne on Monday to advance. Failing to do so will mean elimination from a tournament co-hosted by Australia and New Zealand.
“[Nigeria] was great on the counter, and they finished their chances,” said Steph Catley, who is leading the team in the absence of Captain Sam Kerr. “We’ve just got to move on as quickly as possible – on to Canada now. This is what World Cups are all about.”
The Matildas have generated unprecedented exposure for women’s football in Australia and were widely expected to reach the knockout rounds. Now coach Tony Gustavsson has to turn around an upset quickly.