Nigeria’s Super Falcons have successfully advanced to the round of 16 in the FIFA Women’s World Cup held in Australia and New Zealand. In a historical feat for African teams at the tournament, the Falcons finished their Group B matches unbeaten.
Their most recent game against the Republic of Ireland ended in a 0-0 draw at Brisbane’s Lang Park. As a result, the Super Falcons are now set to face either England or Denmark in the Round of 16 clash on August 7, with a possibility of also facing China.
England currently leads Group D with six points and will face China in their final group match. A draw in that game will secure England’s position at the top. Meanwhile, Denmark will play against debutantes, Haiti, in their last group encounter, and a win for Denmark could place them as Group D’s second-best team, provided China doesn’t beat England by a wide margin.
Both Group D matches will kick off simultaneously at 12.00 noon (WAT) today. The Super Falcons, who are nine-time African champions, started their campaign with a goalless draw against Olympic champions, Canada, on July 21. They secured a thrilling 3-2 victory against co-host nation Australia on July 27, and yesterday’s match against Ireland ended in a scoreless draw.
Needing just a point from the game to progress to the Round of 16, the Falcons played cautiously against an Irish team already facing elimination after two losses. The match, attended by over 24,000 spectators, remained largely competitive but with no serious threats to the Nigerian team. Asisat Oshoala, who scored Nigeria’s winning goal against Australia, missed a promising opportunity in the 14th minute.
Both teams were evenly matched during the game, with both Nigeria and the Republic of Ireland coming close to scoring. In the ninth minute, Chiamaka Nnadozie made a crucial save for Nigeria, punching the ball onto the crossbar from a corner kick taken by the Irish. In the 52nd minute, Ireland’s goalkeeper Courtney Brosnan also made a remarkable save, punching Uchenna Kanu’s firm header off a cross by Toni Payne onto the bar and to safety.
As a result of their performance in the group stage, Nigeria’s Super Falcons will remain in Brisbane to face the top team from Group D in their Round of 16 matches, while Australia’s Matildas will head to Sydney for their own game on Monday, August 7.
In response to their achievement, FIFA’s Secretary-General, Ms. Fatma Samoura, expressed her commendation for the Super Falcons, praising their elegance and self-assuredness on the pitch. She acknowledged that their success has brought joy not only to women’s football worldwide but also to African women’s football and the African girl-child. Being the first woman Secretary-General of FIFA and also an African, Samoura stated that she takes personal pride in celebrating accomplishments that glorify women’s football and African football as a whole.
Samoura emphasized that the Super Falcons’ performance serves as a tremendous inspiration to other African teams participating in the tournament. She encouraged the team to continue believing in themselves, playing as a cohesive unit, and carrying the African flag high throughout the competition.
Gelson Fernandes, the Director for Africa at FIFA and a former Swiss international player, also urged the Super Falcons to maintain their self-belief and readiness to face and overcome any challenges they may encounter on their journey to the final stage of the tournament.