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WOMEN'S FOOTBALL

FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023: Nigeria, Australia clash assumes huge importance

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Thursday’s encounter between the Super Falcons of Nigeria and the Matildas of Australia has assumed high importance for both teams following the declaration of Matildas’ defender Charlie Grant that the Aussies have a good idea of how to cage the Super Falcons.

Grant said on Monday that the Republic of Ireland sat deep in the two teams’ clash at Stadium Australia on the opening day of the tournament, but that she would expect the Super Falcons to play more adventurously at the Lang Park on Thursday evening.

Nigeria captain Onome Ebi said the nine-time African champions have no reason to reveal their strategy for the game, but they would certainly surprise the Matildas.

“It is interesting that they have an idea of how to play us. We also have our own idea of how to play them. It is a very crucial game for us and we will throw everything we have into it.”

Australia, with three points, top Group B after the first round of matches, with Nigeria and Canada joint second with one point each.

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“It is very important to us to collect the three points on Thursday. That will put us in a great position before we play the Irish.”

For the Matildas, victory will take them to six points and all but guarantee a place in the Round of 16, ahead of their much-anticipated clash with Olympic champions Canada.

With the championship hosting 32 teams, it means only two top-placed teams in each will make progress to the knock-out rounds, where more cash is available for the players. Ebi said the Falcons also want to earn more money in the tournament, with the sum of $60,000 to go to each player whose team attains the Round of 16, and $90,000 for any team that gets to the quarter finals. Players of teams that exit the group stage will only earn $30,000 each.

“Much more than money, it is a matter of pride. Of course, we will like the money. However, Nigeria comes first. We were in the quarter-finals in 1999 and that is a long time ago; we want to work to go far in this tournament. Last time, in France, we got to the Round of 16. We are looking beyond the group stage here,” said the veteran who is attending her sixth World Cup finals and could play her 15th match of the finals on Thursday.

Ever-present Nigeria is the only African team to have earned a point here after their first round of matches, with other flagbearers Zambia, South Africa and Morocco having been denied of any point by their respective opponents.

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The Falcons returned to training on Sunday evening after having Saturday off, following Friday’s draw with Canada in Melbourne, and also trained on Monday evening at the match time (8pm).

With midfield powerhouses Rasheedat Ajibade and Halimatu Ayinde back from suspension, Coach Randy Waldrum is most likely to juggle the starting line-up, with Ayinde possibly the clear replacement for the impressive Deborah Abiodun who got a red card against the Canadians.

The lithe and lethal Ajibade, being ambipedal, could be deployed on either wing, meaning either Francisca Ordega or Ifeoma Onumonu could start from the bench.

Ajibade told thenff.com: “Personally, I’m fine. Really pumped up for the game. It’s going to be a difficult game because we’re playing the host team in front of their own fans and at their own stadium with so much crowd. A lot of factors.

“However, I think we’ve got this. I trust the team. We have the capacity; we have the talent and we have the energy. We just have to bring our ‘A’ game to the party and we can do it.”

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Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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WOMEN'S FOOTBALL

Dominican Republic 2024:Flamingos land in the Dominican Republic!

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Nigeria’s U17 girls, Flamingos, have secured their ticket to the 8th FIFA U17 Women’s World Cup finals to be staged in the Dominican Republic later this year, after a 2-0 defeat of their Liberian counterparts at the MKO Abiola National Stadium, Abuja on Friday.

Victory took the aggregate tally to 6-1 in favour of Nigeria, with extraordinary poacher Harmony Chidi setting a record of 13 goals in a qualifying series that will be difficult to equal in years to come. She had 11 goals before kick-off, but netted the two goals of the evening to take Nigeria’s total of the series to a whopping 25. Central African Republic fell by a dozen goals while Burkina Faso fell 1-7 on aggregate.

Her first came after only four minutes when she sped past the Liberian defence to toe-poke the ball beyond the flailing arms of goalkeeper Makula Konneh from a cross by Shakirat Moshood.

A goal feast was expected, but this did not happen, as Peace Effiong had a close call in the 17th and Moshood rocked the crossbar a minute after from 20 yards. Moshood also missed from close range with 10 minutes left of the first half.

In the 56th minute, Moshood blasted beyond the goalpost when faced with Konneh, but Harmony Chidi made sure of her brace seven minutes later when she lashed the ball beyond Konneh’s reach as Nigeria seized the ball from a defensive slip-up by the visitors.

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The 8th FIFA U17 Women’s World Cup finals will be staged in the cities of Santiago de los Caballeros and Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic, 16th October – 3rd November.

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WOMEN'S FOOTBALL

‘It shall be showers of goals’, vows Flamingos ahead of Liberia clash

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Head Coach Bankole Olowookere is confident that the Nigeria U17 girls, Flamingos, will not take their feet off the pedal when they take on their Liberian counterparts in a FIFA U17 Women’s World Cup final qualifying match in Abuja on Friday.

“We are battle-ready for the match on Friday. The girls are raring to go because they want to go to the World Cup. They are already dreaming of flying to the Dominican Republic.

“There is so much excitement in camp, and they are self-assured. However, I have warned them that it is never over until it is over. There should be no display of over-confidence on the pitch. We must approach the match like the first leg was a drawn game.”

Nigeria won the first leg 4-1 in Monrovia on Sunday, with 11-goal qualifying series revelation Harmony Chidi, Shakirat Moshood, Peace Effiong and substitute Blessing Ifitezue banging in the goals for the Flamingos. The hosts got their consolation goal off a penalty awarded with five minutes left of the encounter at the Samuel Kanyon Doe Sports Complex in Paynesville.

The Flamingos will take part in the FIFA U17 Women’s World Cup for the seventh time once they cross Friday’s hurdle.

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They featured at the inaugural edition in New Zealand in 2008, and subsequently at Trinidad and Tobago 2010, Azerbaijan 2012, Costa Rica 2014, Jordan 2016 and India 2022, where they won the bronze medals.  

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WOMEN'S FOOTBALL

Flamingos hammer hosts Liberia 4-1, put one leg in World Cup finals

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FIFA World Cup bronze medallists Nigeria routed Liberia 4-1 in a fast-paced FIFA U17 Women’s World Cup final qualifying round, first leg encounter in Monrovia on Sunday.

The Flamingos got off to a pretty quick start at the Samuel Kanyon Doe Sports Complex at the Paynesville, but the Liberian girls, who shocked Senegal on the away-goal rule to reach this final round, warded off the early threats.

Nigeria got the ball into the net after 14 minutes, but Chadian referee Lare Lamngar ruled it off. Not to be deterred or discouraged, the Flamingos poured forward once again, and in the 19th minute, Shakirat Moshood opened the scoring from a sweet solo run.

Peace Effiong, who got a brace in the 6-0 defeat of Burkina Faso at the MKO Abiola National Stadium last month, scored in the 29th minute to put a wedge of respect between the two teams.

Usual suspect Harmony Chidi, scorer of six of the 12 goals that sank the Central African Republic, and who equally netted four in the 7-1 dismissal of Burkina Faso in the last round, headed home her 11th goal of the qualifying series in the 36th minute to put daylight between both teams.

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On resumption, Nigeria continued to dominate, and substitute Blessing Ifitezue made it four with 16 minutes left.

Liberia scored a consolation goal with five minutes left, from the penalty spot, through Yassah Gwaikolo, after substitute Onyedikachi Ekezie was adjudged to have committed a foul in the area.

The Flamingos will return to Nigeria on Tuesday, and immediately commence preparations for the return leg encounter scheduled for Friday at the MKO Abiola National Stadium, Abuja.

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