Nigeria coach Randy Waldrum feared the Australian public may be slightly cold or aloof with him after his team stunned the FIFA Women’s World Cup co-hosts in Brisbane last Thursday.
Instead, however, the American has encountered nothing from warmth and admiration from Matildas supporters in recognition of the Super Falcons’ exceptional performance.
“Australia is an amazing country,” Waldrum told FIFA. “The fans have been great with us. In some countries – maybe even the US where I’m from – if a team were to come in and beat the host nation, the fans may not be particularly friendly to those players and coaches.
“But here, even if I go out for a walk, I have so many people stop me and say, ‘Congratulations, your team played so well, you deserved it and we wish you all the best’. Australia is a very sporting country, I feel. They understand sport and appreciate it whether it comes from the Australia team, the Nigerians, or whomever.”
Nigeria’s victory, coupled with an opening-game draw with Canada, means they sit top of Group B ahead of Monday’s showdown with the Republic of Ireland.
The Super Falcons require only a draw from the game to secure a place in the knockout phase. Asked about the reasons behind his team’s impressive tournament so far, Waldrum highlighted two key elements.
“The first thing is the chemistry and the bond we have,” he said. “You heard Asisat [Oshoala] speak after the Australia game, she said it’s not about whether she plays for 90 minutes or not, she’s going to give her best no matter how long she has on the field.
She also very quickly complimented her team-mates and the effort of the team. She gave them the credit even though she scored such a big goal for us.
That’s the attitude all of our players have. “The other thing that really impresses me is the fight this team has. It’s one thing to have talent and have a good team, but there’s something to be said about your heart and what’s inside you.
That’s innate and it’s part of their DNA. Against Australia, it would have been easy to have folded after going a goal down late in the first half, yet we came back and got the equaliser before the break. This team’s resolve, competitiveness and fight has been nothing short of amazing.”