Super Falcons ‘two’ good for Korea
Oshoala turned in a player of the match performance as the Super Falcons defeated South Korea 2-0 on Wednesday in Grenoble to keep alive their hopes of progressing to the knockout rounds of the FIFA Women’s World Cup.
After suffering a 3-0 loss to Norway in their opening game and in dire need of a win against a Korean side who also went down 4-0 to France in their opening match, the African champions went ahead on the half-hour mark courtesy of an own goal.
Nigeria started on the back foot as Korea piled pressure on the defence that sat back. The defence was resolute as it held its frame despite missing the injured Faith Michael who was replaced by Chidinma Okeke.
Nigeria’s lucky break came in the 29th minute from Do-Yeon’s embarrassing own goal. After a long ball from deep in Nigeria’s half, the defender trying to clear the danger volleyed past the onrushing goalkeeper Kim Minjung. There was a bit of controversy whether the ball hit the arm of captain Desire Oparanozie. The decision went to VAR that confirmed that Oparanozie didn’t touch the ball on its way in.
After the opening game loss, Coach Thomas Dennerby tried to plug the leaky midfield by bringing in Chinaza Uchendu for Halimatu Ayinde. He also made a major change between the sticks handing 18-year old Chiamaka Nnadozie her World Cup debut in place of the more experienced Tochukwu Oluehi’s place.
Nnadozie made an early error in the 3rd minute due to jitters but improved as the game wore on, producing important saves that ensure Nigeria had a clean sheet. After the game, she called it a dream that came true for her, keeping a clean sheet at the World Cup.
Before the own goal, Korea went close in the 23rd minute when Lee Min A went agonizing close with her shot that dragged wide of the goalkeeper’s right-hand post.
The Super Falcons looked more confident after the goal depending on crosses into the box and quick breaks.
After the half time break, there was a penalty scare for Nigeria as Ji So-Yun went down in the area but the referee showed the Chelsea playmaker a yellow card for simulation.
Oparanozie went close at the other end with a header in the 50th minute that ruffled the top of the net as Nigeria held on to the slim advantage.
The Koreans thought they had the equaliser before the hour mark after Nnadozie spilt a shot into the path of Lee Keum Min. The winger put the ball in the back of the net but was adjudged offside to the visible relief of the Nigerian fans.
Oshoala made the game more comfortable with her brilliant goal in the 75th minute. Her goal was a perfect display of her anticipation, movement, pace, strength and finish. It was the first time Nigeria scored more than once at a World Cup since 1999.
The Barcelona forward raced onto a pass in behind, showed good upper body strength to fight off the defender before rounding the keeper to finish from a tight angle. In the process, the Barcelona forward became the first Nigerian player to score at two FIFA Women’s World Cup tournaments. She was also on target at the 2015 World Cup.
Oshoala had another opportunity to get Nigeria’s third goal when she was played through from across the field. She took an excellent first touch to beat the defender on her but the heavy second touch left a lot to be desired as the goalkeeper mopped up the ball.
The forward was too tired to get into position to finish Francisca Ordega’s cross a few seconds later. Korea fought to get back into the game but the sturdy defending of Onome Ebi and Osinachi Ohale alongside the goalkeeping heroics of Nnadozie handed Nigeria the clean sheet.
Nigeria has a chance at qualification into the knockout stages as they look forward to the final group game against France.
Nigeria’s next game will be on June 17 against France at Roazhon Park in Rennes.