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First Lady to Commend Falcons for Gutsy Performance vs. England

Waldrum Envisions a Bright Future for Team as Nigerians Reflect on Missed Opportunity While Nigeria’s aspiration to reach the quarterfinals of the ongoing FIFA Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand came to an end on the streets of Brisbane yesterday, with the Super Falcons losing to the Three Lionesses of England in a penalty shootout, fans of the team, including Senator Oluremi Tinubu, the First Lady, have united in praising the valiant efforts of the players.
Few had anticipated that Nigeria would hold the highly regarded England to a standstill for 120 minutes, but the Falcons displayed all the necessary elements to secure victory except for finding the back of the net. England emerged victorious in the match, with Nigeria faltering in their first two penalty kicks from Desire Oparanozie and Michelle Alozie, while the Three Lionesses converted their first four attempts, clinching a 4-2 win.

Senator Tinubu, acknowledging the remarkable performance of the Nigerian team, expressed her pride in the players who “poured their hearts into the Round of 16 encounters.” In a statement released by her Media and Publicity Special Adviser, Busola Kukoyi, the First Lady, who watched the match alongside Hajia Nana Shettima (wife of the Vice President) and Mrs. Ekaette Akpabio (wife of the Senate President), described the game as a gripping and intense affair, emphasizing that the Nigerian players were formidable opponents.

“The only advantage the English side had was sheer luck,” she commented while conveying her immense pride in their display on the field. The First Lady assured the team that she eagerly awaits their return home and intends to receive them as genuine heroes. Meanwhile, Randy Waldrum, the Manager of the Super Falcons, commended his players for their brave performance against England and confidently predicted a promising future for the team.

Waldrum acknowledged that a victory over the European champions, England, could have had significant implications for the advancement of women’s football in Nigeria. Nevertheless, he stressed that the players should exit the tournament with their heads held high.

Throughout the tournament, the Nigerian team held their own against formidable opponents, including Olympic gold medalists and European champions, and notably achieved clean sheets in those encounters.

“I am tremendously proud of their performance. The potential for their future is incredibly bright. The players demonstrated an extraordinary unity and gave everything they had on the field. I couldn’t feel prouder of their efforts.

“We possess the ability and the right to be among the world’s top teams. Our capabilities have been clearly showcased, and we’ve proven that we can compete against any opponent.”

During the match, which extended to a penalty shootout following 120 minutes of thrilling action, England’s captain, Millie Bright, made numerous crucial blocks, Earps faced more shots in the first half than in any prior game under Coach Sarina Wiegman, and Nigeria posed a challenge to the Lionesses.

All indicators began to point toward a historic victory for Nigeria – an attempt to become the first African nation to win a knockout match. Even a corner kick from Stanway veered out of play, interrupting Nigeria’s possession late in the second half.

However, in the end, England found a way, a recurring theme under Wiegman’s leadership. The familiar sight of Kelly – who secured the winning penalty in the shootout against Brazil in the Women’s Finalissima and scored the decisive goal in Euro 2022 against Germany – celebrated as she sealed the victory.

Despite holding a numerical advantage with 11 players against 10, Nigeria’s loss garnered praise from many of its fans, acknowledging the team’s superior performance on the night in Brisbane. Nigeria commanded lengthy spells of possession, maneuvering England across the field. Yet, the Lionesses effectively contained the Falcons’ pursuit of goals.

In the 16th minute, the Super Falcons struck the woodwork as Ashleigh Plumptre’s shot narrowly missed its target. Following this moment, Nigeria’s dynamic midfield and resilient defense thwarted England’s mounting offensive attempts.

In the 31st minute, a penalty was initially awarded to England when Rachel Daly was fouled in the box. However, after a VAR review, the decision was overturned to the relief of Nigerians. In the 48th minute, the Super Falcons struck the crossbar once again, this time with Uchenna Kanu’s header evading England’s goalkeeper.

In the 58th minute, Coach Randy Waldrum introduced Asisat Oshoala for Ifeoma Onumonu. The match took a different turn in the 86th minute when Lauren James received a red card from referee Melissa Borjas for a reckless stamp on the back of Michelle Alozie.

With James’ dismissal, who had scored three goals for England in the group stage, fans believed the Super Falcons had an opportunity to capitalize. However, they were unable to convert the chances that came their way. In the subsequent penalty shootout, Chloe Kelly’s decisive spot-kick secured the victory for the Three Lionesses, with Rachel Daly and Alex Greenwood successfully converting for the European champions.

On the other hand, Rasheedat Ajibade and Christy Ucheibe found the net for the Super Falcons, while Desire Oparanozie and Michelle Alozie missed their kicks, granting England the quarterfinal ticket. England triumphed 4-2, securing their place in the final eight.

Ranked fourth, England will face either Jamaica or Colombia in the quarterfinals in Sydney on Saturday. In another game played on the same day, co-hosts Australia defeated Denmark 2-0, advancing to the quarterfinals. “The players have been exceptional throughout the tournament,” praised Waldrum, highlighting their resilience in facing top-tier teams.

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