Nigeria’s Super Falcons brace-up for hosts, Australia’s Matildas’ challenge

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It is the day after an impressive opener to their latest FIFA World Cup campaign and the Super Falcons are already looking forward to their second match of the big showpiece against co-host nation Australia at Brisbane’s Lang Park on Thursday.

Chiamaka Nnadozie is the big name on everyone’s lips in Brisbane and even as the locals shout to you across the parks “we shall be there, no worries”, once they notice you’re a Nigerian, they still mutter under their breath: “You’ve got a great goalkeeper.”

With captain Onome Ebi left on the substitutes bench, Coach Randy Waldrum handed the captain’s armband to the calm goal-tender, and she justified the confidence with a sterling performance, including a double save from iconic Christine Sinclair’s penalty kick five minutes into the second period.

Now back in Queensland, following the feat that left scrambled eggs on the faces of bookmakers, the nine-time African champions are looking forward to what would certainly be a most interesting encounter with the Matildas.

“We are in very high spirits, I can tell you,” Ebi told thenff.com on the team’s return to Brisbane. “It is the day after that massive point and we are already looking forward to our second match. The Aussies will not be easy, but we knew before arriving in Australia that no team at this tournament will be easy.”

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The players were given the day off on Saturday, and only loosened up from the encounter that stunned the North Americans.

Even as ever-present Nigeria got a point off the Olympic champions in Melbourne, the Super Falcons still have a number of top performers in their ranks who have not tasted action, and are eager to do the business.

Midfielders Christy Ucheibe and Deborah Abiodun were massive in the early afternoon at the Rectangular, but suspended regulars Rasheedat Ajibade and Halimatu Ayinde are now available for selection, and the versatile Jennifer Echegini and strong forward Desire Oparanozie are also keen to get in on the beat.

“It is a tournament and we have decided to take it one game at a time. We have to go back and correct certain lapses, like how to convert our opportunities. We cannot afford to miss good chances any longer,” defender Osinachi Ohale said at the mixed zone in Melbourne.

Nigeria will square up to the Aussies at the Lang Park Stadium on Thursday (from 11am Nigeria time) with the arena expected to be filled to its 52,000 -capacity.

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