Nigeria’s Super Falcons battle former champions Norway at the 2019 Women’s World Cup in France, in a potentially explosive Group A encounter at the Stade Auguste-Delaune, Reims on today (Saturday).
The African champions suffered their worst humiliation at the World Cup in 1995, an 8-0 defeat in the hands of the Norwegians, who emerged champions of that year’s edition.
Now, the Nigerians, ranked 38th in the world, and making their eighth appearance at the tournament, would be hoping to pay their European counterparts back in their own coin, 24 years later.
The game comes up 8pm Nigerian time at the Stade Auguste-Delaune in Reims.
With no injury worries going into their opening game, the Falcons will be heading into the game with loads of confidence after emerging victorious in their last seven games, scoring 31 goals and conceding just three.
The Falcons, just before departing the Aviva Resort in Bad Tatzmannsdorf in Austria, defeated top division Hungarian side Halandas Viktoria 5-1 before slotting three unreplied goals past ZNK Pormuje of Slovania.
The Falcons will no doubt hope to avoid their mistakes at previous World Cups and with the experience of Swedish tactician Thomas Dennerby, the team will fancy their chances of making it out of the tough group and possibly get to the quarter-finals, a feat they only achieved in 1999 despite playing in all editions of the World Cup.
Norway are one of three countries that have defeated the Falcons with margins of over seven goals after their 8-0 win in 1995. The others are Germany in 2010 and France in an international friendly in 2018.
Speaking ahead of the crucial fixture, Midfielder Ngozi Okobi said it was time for the team to play to their full potential.
She said, “It is true that we have not really pulled our weight at the FIFA World Cup before now. But I can say we have the team to do that here in France. The NFF has done well by ensuring good preparation for the team, with the friendlies that we played.
“A lot is hanging on the first match against Norway. If we are able to get a good result, then we will take it from there.”
Meanwhile, head coach of the team Thomas Dennerby has tasked his girls to take it one match at a time and develop a positive mindset about the finals.
“A positive mindset is key to what we are here for. You must believe in yourselves and have confidence in what you can do here. You must give it your best,” he said.
Hosts France and South Korea are the other teams in Group A.