The 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup is set to kick off with an exciting match between Nigeria and Canada. Despite Canada being the heavy favorites, Nigeria is determined to prove themselves on the global stage.
Canada, the Olympic champions, currently sit 33 places above Nigeria in the FIFA rankings. This significant gap in rankings places Canada as the favorites for the tournament opener. However, the Super Falcons, Nigeria’s national team, are not to be underestimated. They have a rich history in the African continent, being 11-time champions and qualifying for every World Cup.
Although Nigeria has an impressive qualification record, they have only made it past the group stage twice and reached the quarterfinals once in 1999. With only four wins in 26 World Cup games, they face a tough challenge ahead.
On the other hand, Canada has eight appearances in the Women’s World Cup. Their best performance saw them reach the semifinals in 2003, but they faltered in their first knockout stage game four years ago.
In previous encounters, Canada has had the upper hand with two wins in five meetings, both in friendly matches. However, when it comes to the World Cup, Nigeria has not lost to Canada in their two previous meetings. Nigeria held Canada to a 3-3 draw in their first World Cup match in 1995, and in the 2011 edition, Nigeria secured a 1-0 victory.
Canada’s starting lineup is expected to remain mostly unchanged from their 2021 Olympic gold medal triumph, except for Janine Beckie’s unfortunate absence due to an ACL injury. This puts pressure on Adriana Leon, Nichelle Prince, and 22-year-old Jordyn Huitema, with talented winger Jessie Fleming expected to make an impact as well.
Nigeria has been dealing with off-field distractions, including disputes involving equity with its federation. Despite these challenges, the players remain focused and prepared for the upcoming matches.
Key players to watch for Nigeria include Asisat Oshoala, who leads the front line with an outstanding track record at Barcelona and multiple African Women’s Footballer of the Year awards. Goalkeeper Chiamaka Nnadozie is a rising star, and veteran defender Onome Ebi is set to make history as the first African player to feature in six World Cups.
Canada’s team is captained by veteran Christine Sinclair, who holds the remarkable record of 190 international goals, the most by any soccer player in history. Goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan and midfielder Jessie Fleming add strength and stability to the team.
The match between Nigeria and Canada will take place on Friday, July 21, at the Melbourne Rectangular Stadium in Melbourne. As Canada enters the World Cup as strong contenders, Nigeria’s resilient spirit cannot be ignored. Expect an intense battle on the field as both teams vie for a victorious start to their World Cup campaigns.