Nigeria has sealed their place in the round of 16 at the 2023 Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand following a battling 0-0 Group B draw against Republic of Ireland on Monday, the first African side to advance to the knockout phase.
The Super Falcons had the better chances in the game but could not force a winner and finish second in the pool behind Australia. They will now face the top team in Group D, which at this stage looks likely to be European champions England.
That fixture will be played next Monday, with Nigeria to have certainty around their opponent when Group D concludes on Tuesday.
It is the third time the Super Falcons have successfully negotiated the group stages at a World Cup, having reached the quarterfinals in 1999 and the round of 16 in France four years ago.
They finished with five points in their pool this time round having also drawn 0-0 with Olympic champions Canada, who have since been dumped put, and claimed a stunning 3-2 win over Australia.
They rarely looked like conceding against Irish, who had a few half-chances, and it was Nigeria who might have won the game.
The best chance fell to Uchenna Kanu as her goal-bound header was brilliantly stopped by Ireland goalkeeper Courtney Brosnan, who managed to claw it onto the crossbar at full stretch. It will certainly be a contender for Save of the Tournament.
Asisat Oshoalo had an excellent chance in the first half as she was played through by Kanu but flashed her shot across the goal and wide when she looked destined to score.
Oshoalo, who has been battling with niggling injuries for a while, lasted 66 minutes before she was replaced by coach Randy Waldrum, who said prior to the game they would look to manage her minutes.
Super Falcons midfielder Toni Payne also found herself with a good shooting opportunity on the edge of the box, but dragged her effort wide.
Going into the final stages of the game, Australia’s 3-0 lead over Canada made it clear that Nigeria would go through even with a 1-0 defeat, which took some sting out of their ambition to go forward for the win.
It was more of a case of holding on to what they had, with the draw more than enough to seal their progression.
Zambia beat Costa Rica 3-1 earlier on Monday but were already eliminated from the competition. They do at least leave with a maiden World Cup win.
South Africa and Morocco could join Nigeria in the round of 16 when they play their final pool games on Wednesday and Thursday respectively.