Eleven-time African champions, Nigeria, will hope to advance to the quarter-finals of the ongoing Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand when they go toe-to-toe against European champions England at the Lang Park, Brisbane in the round of 16 on Monday (today), The PUNCH reports.
In what would be their second meeting at the World Cup, the Super Falcons will also hope to even the head-to-head record against the Lionesses, who beat them 3-2 at the 1995 edition in Sweden.
Today’s game will be the fourth meeting of both sides at senior level and Nigeria have triumphed on two occasions, pipping the English 1-0 on July 23, 2002, then again by a more comfortable 3-0 on April 22, 2004 in friendlies.
The Lionesses, who finished the group stage with a 100 per cent record, set up the much-anticipated round of 16 clash against Nigeria, who finished second in Group.
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Both sides are unbeaten in the tournament, and progress into the next round will be a huge step forward as most favourites including USA, Germany and Brazil have been knocked out of the competition.
Ahead of their much-talked meeting today, Nigeria’s head coach Randy Waldrum said they had studied the European champions, adding that his players weren’t intimidated by their opponents’ pedigree.
“We have been preparing extremely hard to get ready for this. So, it’s really just being days of trying to break down videos and discuss things to figure out how we can exploit some areas we do well and at the same time curtail them in some of the things they do well, so, it’s been a lot of sleepless night,” Waldrum said before the game.
“Right now, I don’t sense a lot of difference between this match and any of the other three matches we played. The players have really handled the anxiety well too.”
Captain Onome Ebi also restated Waldrum’s sentiments.
“We have been preparing for this all year, not even now. It’s just like the World Cup just started for us. Whatever we have won has passed, this is the beginning of another challenge and the team is positive, we are ready to go,” Ebi said.
“Nigerians should keep praying for us, we are here already, no going back, and we go out there to put in our best.”
The clash is scheduled for 8:30am today in Brisbane.
Nigeria, alongside Brazil, Germany, Japan, Norway, Sweden and the United States belong to the exclusive club of countries that have attended every Women’s World Cup since the event was first held in 1991.