…Chiamaka Nnadozie penalty save sees Nigeria play out a goalless draw against Canada to kick off their 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup campaign…
A Chiamaka Nnadozie penalty save saw Nigeria play out a 0-0 draw and earn a point against the reigning Olympic champions on Friday morning in their first FIFA Women’s World Cup (FIFAWWC) match.
Captained by goalkeeper Chiamaka Nnadozie, the Super Falcons who are making a ninth appearance at the global finals started the game rather disorganized and clumsy; giving away possession at will, unable to string passes together with players clattering into each other on numerous occasions. But the Canadians failed to take advantage and make it count. Especially with an early chance that fell to Christine Sinclair at the edge of the box which she played well off target.
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Eventually, the African giants grew into the game after about 15 mins of Canadian dominance.
With Nigeria now on the front foot, Ify Onumonu received a pass from Ashley Plumptre on the left side of Nigeria’s attack, drove into space with the ball and released a low curling shot which was creeping into the far corner but Sheridan came to Canada’s rescue as she parried it for a corner. That was the first and only shot on target in the first 45 mins.
From then on, Nigeria played with more confidence, stringing passes together and attacking the Olympic champions. Again, Plumptre tried to find the marauding Oshoala with a nice pass from outside the left side of Nigeria’s attack. The pass was missed by both Kadeisha Buchanan and the on-rushing Sheridan in goal, leaving Oshoala to latch on to the pass and try to score or find a team mate from a tight angle, but the Super Falcons striker lacked the composure to execute as the first half ended goalless.
Despite an improved performance towards the final minutes of the first half, Nigeria came into the second half only to concede a penalty within the first five minutes of the restart courtesy of a Francisca Ordega foul on Sinclair.
The veteran attacker stepped up with history in sight only to be undone by a Chiamaka Nnadozie penalty save, which denied Sinclair from becoming the oldest player to score at the FIFAWWC.
Nigeria regained some momentum after that but was unable to make it count as both teams struggled to find an opening.
While Nnadozie and Ohale were stand-out performers in defence; Nigeria owe their spells of dominance to teenage sensation, Deborah Abiodun and Christy Ucheibe in the middle, who stamped their authority on the game – flying into tackles and winning possession, providing a platform for the Super Falcons of Nigeria to build her attack through the wings.
The diminutive Abiodun who made her FIFAWWC debut in the defensive midfield role was brilliant all game long. Sadly, despite an impressive debut, the tackles became one too many as Abiodun was sent off in the final minutes for a nasty challenge on Canada’s Ashley Lawrence.
Spectators would argue that Oshoala and Ohale endured similar tackles from the Canadians which neither got a look in from VAR nor a booking from the referee.
A Nnadozie penalty save, a good game and a great point against the Olympic champions. Nigeria play co-hosts, Australia next.