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WOMEN'S FOOTBALL

Team spirit pays off as Nigeria rise above off-field woes

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FIFA Women's World Cup Australia and New Zealand 2023 - Group B - Australia v Nigeria - Brisbane Football Stadium, Brisbane, Australia - July 27, 2023 Australia's Alanna Kennedy in action with Nigeria's Rasheedat Ajibade and Chiamaka Nnadozie REUTERS/Dan Peled

Low expectations and a bitter pay dispute followed Nigeria to the Women’s World Cup but team spirit trumped off-field woes on Thursday as the Super Falcons breathed life into their tournament with a stunning win over co-hosts Australia.

Weeks before the World Cup’s kick-off, coach Randy Waldrum complained bitterly about unpaid wages for himself and his players, and a lack of resources to prepare his team properly.

The disputes with Nigeria’s soccer federation remain unresolved but the players promised to set them aside for the good of their tournament.

Focusing on the job at hand has paid dividends on the field against two of the top contenders, with Thursday’s 3-2 win over Australia following a valuable 0-0 draw against Olympic champions Canada.

Though top of Group B, level on four points with Canada but ahead on goals scored, Nigeria still have work to do.

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The lowest-ranked side in the group, the world number 40 Africans may need another win against Ireland in their last match to reach the knockout phase.

However, Waldrum said they could at least allow themselves a brief celebration after putting doubters in their place.

“I told (the players) after the match, you know, keep believing,” the American told reporters.

“Keep believing in yourself because great things can happen for teams when you really fight for each other.

“And it’s not always sometimes the best talent that wins.

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“Sometimes it’s the best team, the team that works best together — and we’re enjoying the journey.

“We know there’s still work to do. So we’ll enjoy it tonight and then get our recovery going tomorrow because it was a very, very taxing game on us physically.”

In contrast to Nigeria, world number 10 Australia have been lavished with resources as tournament co-hosts and have enjoyed gender parity with the national men’s team since their collective bargaining agreement in 2019.

The Matildas also had a massive crowd at Lang Park roaring them on but home fans were stunned into silence after Nigeria’s top striker Asisat Oshoala came off the bench to score the Africans’ third goal in the 72nd minute, all but sealing the match.

Ireland will be Nigeria’s immediate focus but the Super Falcons’ battle for respect and better conditions will be an ongoing mission, Waldrum suggested.

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“We need to continue to fight for our players and get the things that they need,” he said.

“We have to keep doing that for all around the world because not all the teams have a collective bargaining like you have here in Australia — and the players fought hard to get that for many years. And same in the U.S.

“So the work is not done.”

-Reuters

 

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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.

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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