By Muhyideen Jimoh
The Super Falcons of Nigeria will on Monday in Brisbane take on the girls in green from Ireland, in a tricky final group B match at the ongoing 2023 FIFA Women World Cup.
The fearless Super Falcons produced the first major shock of the tournament after stunning co-hosts’ Australia 3-2, to shoot to the top of the group, level with Canada on four points.
They had opened their campaign with a hard fought 0-0 draw with Olympic champions Canada.
The Nigerian girls will have to avoid complacency and what has been termed the Irish banana peel, if they are to seal passage to the round of 16.
Already eliminated Ireland who narrowly lost their first two matches in the group will be seeking redemption against the Super Falcons in a bid to get their first World Cup win.
Nigeria are ranked 40th while Ireland is 22nd in the latest FIFA world ranking, but the Super Falcons have re-emphasised the fact that rankings don’t count much when the chips are down.
Super Falcons coach Randy Waldrum on Sunday, ahead of the match said his team will continue to show that they are better than their current ranking.
“We have shown we are a better team than number 40 (ranking) in the world.
“I would say that we were underestimated and underappreciated.
“Hopefully we’ve proven that to the world right now that we belong in a higher place (than 40th).” he said.
The coach said the team would approach the ‘very difficult’ Ireland match with all the seriousness it deserves, to avoid any slips
“It is going to be a very difficult game. People may think I am crazy for saying this, but I think it could be our hardest match.
“Ireland have been a bit unlucky in the first two matches and could have got a result.
“We are not expecting them to lay down because they are going home already, I am expecting to get the best from them and have been very impressed with their team and their organisation.” he said.
Analysts have stressed the need for the Super Falcons to go for an outright win, so as to top the group, regardless of the result from the dicey Australia vs Canada match.
Nigeria should advance to the last-16 if they avoid a defeat against the hungry Irish, while a loss would leave them scrambling for a favourable result from the other group game between Canada and Australia.
Only the top two teams from each group will qualify for the round of 16.
MP MP W D L GF GA GD Pts
Nigeria 2 1 1 0 3 2 +1 4
Canada 2 1 1 0 2 1 +1 4
Australia 2 1 0 1 3 3 0 3
Rep. of Ireland 2 0 0 2 1 3 -2 0