Nigeria shocked the Women’s World Cup on Thursday, coming from behind to upset co-hosts Australia 3-2 in Brisbane and take a significant step towards qualifying for the knockout phase of the tournament.
Uchenna Kanu, Osinachi Ohale and substitute Asisat Oshoala all scored, after the home team had gone ahead just before the break, to hand Africa their first win of the tournament Down Under and put Nigeria one point away from the last-16.
Nigeria went top of Group B with four points, ahead of Canada on goal difference, with Australia on three and Ireland out of contention without any points at the bottom of the standings.
Nigeria meet Ireland in their last game in Brisbane next Monday, needing only a draw to progress, while Australia and Canada go head-to-head in the group’s other game in Melbourne at the same time.
Australia dominated the early exchanges and put Nigeria under pressure, particularly from corners before scoring one minute into stoppage time at the end of the first half.
A clearance from Super Falcons’ goalkeeper Chiamaka Nnadozie went straight to Katrina Gorry, who fed Caitlin Foord to square a pass for Emily van Egmond to score. The 30-year-old was only in the Matildas team because of injury to Mary Fowler but made the most of her chance.
But Nigeria made sure there was parity at the break, pulling a goal back within three minutes, as Rasheedat Ajibade’s cross into the area was deflected towards the back post and saw Kanu sneak in and poke it home from close range.
The game was turned on its head soon after former African Women’s Footballer of the Year Oshoala came on, having been left out of the starting line-up because of a slight injury.
A 65th minute corner was not properly cleared by the Australians, allowing Nigeria to get the ball across the goal and a brave header from Ohale put them ahead. The veteran fullback, in her fourth Women’s World Cup, was injured in the process but recovered to stay on and help the Super Falcons’ to a stunning victory.
Seven minutes after taking the lead, Nigeria stunned the crowd as they went two goals clear with Oshoala taking advantage of a defensive mix-up between central defender Alanna Kennedy and goalkeeper Mackenzie Arnold, stealing away the ball and scoring from a tight angle.
Nigeria had to weather 13 minutes of stoppage time added on at the end of the game to ensure a precious three-point haul, although conceded in the 100th minute to Kennedy, who headed home a corner.
Nigeria had previously beaten Australia at the Women’s World Cup in Canada in 2015 and Thursday’s win was only their fifth in 28 games at nine final appearances.
Defeat for Australia’s Matildas follows a similar defeat for the other co-hosts New Zealand at the hands of the Philippines earlier in the week.