Which players showed the highest quality in Nigeria's crucial win over Australia at the World Cup?
A hard-fought victory over the Matildas was the perfect response to criticism after the opening game draw against Canada and was earned after magnificent displays from a number of the Super Falcons’ stars.
They were able to enjoy a famous win over Australia, and these five players were at the top of their game to ensure Nigeria finished the second round of group fixtures on top of Group B.
Despite conceding twice, Chiamaka Nnadozie put in another superb shift for the Super Falcons, making a number of crucial saves to keep Nigeria in the game.
She totalled six saves against Australia and thwarted many of the Matildas’ attempts at dominating the Super Falcons in the air, nullifying one of the opponent’s greatest tactical strategies.
A breath of fresh air on the wings for the Super Falcons, Uchenna Kanu’s willingness to make runs in behind and stretch the Australian defence was crucial to the 3-2 win for the Super Falcons.
Kanu scored an important equaliser on the cusp of half-time, ensuring that the Matildas did not enter the break ahead, and that was only part of her excellent showing against the co-hosts.
Thanks to the shape of the Super Falcons’ attack with Kanu switching positions with other forwards in the team, Nigeria were able to destabilise their Australian counterparts, making it much harder for the Matildas to pin their markers than it was for Canada in the opening match.
An unsung hero in midfield, Christy Ucheibe proved her worth yet again for the Super Falcons with an immense display to stop Australia from playing their usual free-flowing football against Nigeria.
Ucheibe, along with Halimatu Ayinde, did a superb job of standing up to the might of Australia, forcing the Matildas into uncomfortable wide progression.
Ucheibe covered the most distance in the match for the second time in a row and also made the most recoveries (12), won the most tackles (7) and the joint most interceptions (2) of any Super Falcons player in the win over Australia.
As predicted, her involvement in the match took the Super Falcons’ attack to a new level as she consistently used her pace and trickery to torment the Australian defence and also help Nigeria keep possession high up the pitch, even when she had to do so on her own,
Ajibade attempted and completed the most take-ons of any player on the pitch and was crucial to two of Nigeria’s three goals.
It was her shot from a half chance that deflected into the path of Kanu for Nigeria’s first goal, and it was also her repelled header that found an unmarked Osinache Ohale to give the Super Falcons a 2-1 lead.
A cameo to remember from Asisat Oshoala saw her bag what was eventually the Super Falcons’ winner against Australia.
The Barcelona forward showed her predatory instincts as she pounced on a mix-up between Australian goalkeeper Mackenzie Arnold and defender, Alanna Kennedy to score the Super Falcons’ third goal of the day and earn them all three points.
Oshoala has come in for some criticism in the days after Nigeria’s draw against Canada in the opening group game, but silenced her doubters with a superb press and finish despite nursing an injury that forced her out of the starting lineup.
In addition to the five above, Super Falcons can also be proud of the performances of defenders Ashleigh Plumptre, who was immense at the back, and Ohale, who got the goal to put Nigeria 2-1 up.
In midfield, Ayinde, who replaced the suspended Deborah Abiodun, also gave a good account of herself and showed her quality before succumbing to injury with 15 minutes of the match left.
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